GREENFIELD – City council is expected to be asked at its meeting next Wednesday to approve, reject or amend a police chief’s request for capital of $ 1.35 million to begin a three-year upgrade and renovation of the High Street Police Station.
Problems that Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. described with the building include everything from undersized spaces and lack of natural light to lack of locker space for policewomen and security concerns.
City council filed Haigh’s request and the discussion that followed last month, with councilors asking for more information and details from the chief, who said he would be ready for it this month.
Haigh and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said the work is needed for several reasons, including that the city has chosen not to build a public safety complex that would have included police for at least the next 10 years. for the benefit of agents, but for accreditation purposes.
“Until last year, we had planned to move to a new space, so we didn’t start the necessary upgrades and renovations at that time,” Haigh recalls.
“This now begins the necessary renovations to our police department building to maintain the important accreditation, as well as to ensure the safety of our police force,” said Wedegartner. “In our five-year capital budget last year, there was $ 5 million to renovate the building. It was resubmitted this year by Chief Robbie Haigh, and because the city decided not to build a public safety complex, repairs are going to have to be done.
The Capital Improvement Committee lowered this year’s amount and spread the remaining amount over three years to stay within the city’s borrowing limits, according to Greenfield CFO Liz Gilman.
“We really need to start these repairs in (fiscal 2022),” Wedegartner said, adding that $ 100,000 would come from the city’s capital stabilization account, while the rest would be borrowed. Wedegartner said she believes work on the police station should be a priority for the city.
The High Street building was a doctor’s office before the Police Department moved in, and it has not been upgraded since 1998. Some of the next year’s money would be used to hire an architect / engineer to estimate the cost of necessary repairs over the next few years. Then, said Haigh, those repairs will be a priority.
The first thing you notice when entering from High Street is that the parking lot needs to be repaved. There are ruts, cracks and holes.
“Our exit port, for example, is a temporary building attached to the permanent building,” Haigh said on a recent tour. “The water comes in, we store evidence in it and it’s just not ideal for transport. The doors had to be replaced. It just causes a lot of problems.
The reservation room is not set up for police security – prisoners are seated within 6 feet of an officer, with just a desk between them. The interview room is also adjacent, so there isn’t much privacy.
“These are tight quarters,” Haigh said. “People shouldn’t be so close, even without a pandemic. ”
Although the cell blocks were “protected” when police moved into the building, Haigh said they shouldn’t be so small. The offices of administrators, “detectives” and supervisors are equally small, as all of these rooms were once examination rooms.
“Every year we get a letter from the state saying our cell blocks don’t meet current standards,” he said. “And we now have a female supervisor and female officers, and that population will only continue to grow, so we need a locker room. At this time, we cannot provide that to them.
The dispatchers work in a very small dark room with no natural lighting, so Haigh would like this to be one of the first issues resolved.
“They spend their entire shift inside what is basically a closet,” he said. “It’s a terrible environment.”
Haigh said if city council votes to provide the $ 1.35 million, it will spread the work over three years.
“We would obviously deal with the safety issues first,” he said. “We must also modernize our communication room where our new radio system and our equipment are kept. We need more space for this equipment.
Although Haigh showed the reporter the areas where security could be compromised, he asked that they not be mentioned for exactly these reasons.
The request has been reviewed by the Board’s Ways and Means Committee, and while the members have said they understand the needs presented by Haigh, they want more information and possibly cost estimates, rather than approving this amount without these details.
The city council will meet online next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to hold a public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget. It will meet at 7 p.m. for its regular monthly meeting, which it announced last month that it would discuss the police department’s immobilization request.
To access the virtual meeting, visit bit.ly/3w2eIdd.