Ground broken for new police headquarters

Jun 26, 2018

Although construction of the Dartmouth Police Department’s new headquarters building officially began several days earlier, officers and officials gathered at 1390 Tucker Road on June 26 for the customary groundbreaking ceremony.

With a backdrop of dirt, police cars, and heavy construction equipment, it was a sight Acting Police Chief Brian Levesque was happy to see.

“I am extremely honored to be here, finally on the site, after the tremendous amount of hours that have gone into planning, looking at drawings,” Levesque said. “Standing here today, with the dirt piles and machinery, it’s a tremendous experience.”

Levesque, along with an advisory committee and town officials, have been working on the project since 2016 after the department’s initial plan to renovate its former headquarters building was voted down.

The department will now be housed in a 21,800 square foot, two-story building which will include a number of features the department needs, like suspect holding cells, better locker rooms, meeting rooms, and secure parking areas.

This comes after nearly 100 years of operating out of repurposed buildings.

In 2014, the department was forced into trailers which were later replaced with modular units. The move was caused by an officer contracting Legionnaires’ disease from contaminated water in the department’s 249 Russells Mills Road headquarters.

An $8.6 million plan to renovate the existing building was pitched. Voters rejected the idea at the April 2016 town election. Taking it as a sign voters wanted a new building, a committee went back to the drawing board for a new design, and a new location.

The department honed in on Route 6, Allen Street, Slocum Road, and Old Westport Road for potential locations because they are close to where most calls originate. One private and eight town-owned properties were considered before the former Gidley School site was picked.

With designs and a location, voters at the April 2017 town election approved the $13.4 million project with a 67 percent vote. The vote for the debt exclusion authorized the town to increase taxes above the state-mandated limit until the town has repaid money borrowed for station construction. It was then approved at the 2017 June Town Meeting.

Co-town administrator Greg Barnes said construction will cost $9 million. Earlier in the year, the town signed a construction contract with Delphi Construction. Although the construction cost does not include things like architect fees, it is still within budget.

Construction should be nearly complete by next summer, although an official move-in date has not been set yet.

Bob Szala laid much of the groundwork for the new building before he announced his retirement as chief last year. He attended the ceremony, and thanked the advisory group, building committee, Select Board, Levesque, department administrative assistant Shannon Lyonnais, and the community for moving the project forward.

Levesque was named the department’s new permanent chief in February. The change will become official once Szala’s retirement paperwork goes through.