BERLIN — Despite recommendations from the Public Building Commission, the Police Commission is maintaining that a new building for the Police Department is the best course of action.
A recenty building commission examined moving the Board of Education out of the Town Hall and allowing the Police Department to use the entire first floor of the building. The plan would also eliminate the police firing range, requiring that the department to find a new location to train.
Police Commission Chairperson Paul Eschoo said Monday his main concern is that it would just be a matter of time before the department outgrew the space in the Town Hall, though, requiring another costly expansion or new building down the road.
Eschoo feels the placement of the department presents a potential safety hazard, since officers trying to quickly respond to calls have to traverse multiple crosswalks and go through the parking lot in front of the Town Hall.
In a 2014 referenudm, voters rejected a proposal to build a new police station on Farmington Avenue at a projected cost of $21 million.
The building commission’s study looked at the possibility of moving the Board of Education out of the Town Hall and allowing the Police Department to use the entire first floor of the building. It would also eliminate the police firing range, requiring that the department to find a new location to train.
Unlike a 2008 study on the department’s needs prepared by Jacunski Humes Architects, revised in 2015, the news building commission suggests the renovation could provide enough space for the headquarters at Town hall after some compromises.
The news study estimated that the department requires 22,940 square feet of space, up from the current 10,2444, and making the entire first floor available to the department would provide 22,030 square feet. It also projected that the department would grow to 73 employees by 2027, up from 37 a few years after the department moved into the Town Hall in 1973.
After voters rejected the first proposal for a new police station, Police Commission members visited other area stations for tips on how to make the project cheaper.
Based on what they heard, Eschoo estimated that a station could be built for around $12 to $13 million. In 2016, the Town Council decided not move forward with allocating $16 million for a new station.
“They should have put it up for a vote again to see exactly what the citizens would have to say about that,” he said. He recognized that councilors were looking to avoid the cost of a referendum, but he said the voters should have been given a chance to vote on a cheaper option.
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