Next steps: police station detailed at Select Board meeting

Aug 9, 2016

Dartmouth Police Chief Robert Szala and his Advisory Board are honing in on a location for a new police station, according to a presentation the committee made at the August 8 Select Board meeting.

The police department has been working out of modular units behind the former building at 249 Russells Mills following the discovery bacteria in the water supply, which made an officer sick. A $8.6 million renovation of the existing Dartmouth police station failed at the April Town Meeting, and Advisory Board member David Tatelbaum explained that there were a few reasons for that.

The town did not want to rehabilitate an old building that would not provide the life cycle of a new building, and the station’s existing location of the police station is too far away from where the department’s calls originate, he said. The board is now working to build a more complete plan before the April 2017 vote, including a set location.

A random sampling of the department’s nearly 25,000 yearly calls revealed that 62-68 percent of calls originated north of Allen Street, so the board created a “cone”—bordered by Route 6, Allen Street, Slocum Road and Old Westport Road—where members felt a new station would best address the needs of residents from every corner of town. Szala said the board would be considering both public and private land for the new police station.

“Using the data, we can try to pinpoint a location within town that we have the most accessibility for calls of service, but also service for the community where we’re not going to be out too far to the left or too far to the north,” Szala said.

The next step is to pick a designer for the project, said Project Director Richard Pomroy. The committee hopes to complete the two-month process by the end of September, and have a recommended design firm in the warrant at the October Town Meeting.

The Select Board expressed concerns with the project and potential site locations, including traffic and safety issues relating to additional vehicular traffic and emergency vehicle traffic at the new site. Members also questioned what the plans for the existing police station site will be, and if any of the architectural work from the previous attempt to rehabilitate the existing police station would be reused.

Advisory Committee member Lorri-Ann Miller said that the committee has discussed traffic and how Dartmouth’s roads are structured at their meetings, and that the existing property could be used for passive recreation. She said plans for what to do with the old property and traffic would be incorporated into the discussion.

Pomroy said that components of the research completed during the proposal to rehabilitate the existing police station, including a critical project profile of the department’s needs, would be shared with the new designer.