Police station plans presented to the Select Board

Jul 14, 2015

The Dartmouth Police Station could see some big changes in the future — including a new lobby that would give the public better access to the police and the police access to improved facilities.

The Police Station Building Committee presented three options to the Select Board on Monday night, two of which would gut the main building on 249 Russells Mills Road. A third, more costly option would move the station to a new location in a new building.

CSI Engineering identified several issues with the 85-year-old building and three basic options or “schemes” were developed by Allen Lieb Architects & Associates to correct the issues.

The solutions follow the 2014 closing of the Russells Mills Road building when the bacterium legionella was found in the hot water system after an officer became ill with Legionnaires’ disease. Since then, the department has operated out of a modular building located on the property.

The nine-person committee previously approved of Scheme B, or the second plan that was drafted. The $7.3 million option would remove copper piping throughout the building, hot water heaters and the HVAC ductwork. The proposal would include several additions such as a two-story lobby made from glass, a brick exterior, a sprinkler system, rewiring and rearrangements to the floor plan. The modular buildings would still be in use.

Scheme B was favored because it corrects problems with the building while remaining cost effective. This option became the main focus of discussion.

“Talking to our estimators and our engineers, we’re going to get about 40 to 50 years of life out of this building,” said architect Allen Lieb, referring to the gutting and renovations of the current station. “It’s also going to be very energy insulated. It should save money on cooling, heating, electric.”

If approved by the Select Board, the renovations would cost taxpayers $35 a year for the next 20 years. Chairman Shawn McDonald noted that, at one point, the Dartmouth High School building cost taxpayers $120. He said the relatively low cost was worth it.

“[Scheme B] gets a building where our women and men of the police force can work without having to worry if they’re going to catch something and go home sick. That’s something they deserve,” said McDonald.

While the Select Board agreed that Scheme B was a reasonable option, Select Board member Frank Gracie expressed a wish for the police station to be further north where Dartmouth Police receive most of their calls. McDonald expressed concerns that the new building should staff a maintenance crew capable of keeping the building functioning for as long as possible.

“To me, this a no brainer,” said Select Board member Stanley Mickelson, who also served on the Police Station Building Committee. “We’re either going to apply a Band-Aid like we did 20 years ago and be where we are now a mess. Or we can do it right, take it down inside completely and rebuild.”

The chair of the building committee, Ken Vincent, said the town would be getting the “best bang for our buck” with Scheme B.

“That is to make this a police station designed by the police chiefs the way it should be — suitable for a police station,” said Vincent, adding that the renovations would allow enough space for other departments to have an annex office like the Harbormaster.

Acting Police Chief Robert Szala said that space is currently limited for the force, and Lieb’s designs offers space for today and room for growth in the future.

“When we renovate an existing building at a cost of $7 million, that’s still a 50-year building,” said Szala. “I think Scheme B is the best option.”

The Select Board will weigh the three options. If they opt for one of the options, the renovations will be presented before Town Meeting members in October.