Town Council releases FAQ on police, fire rehab

Jun 12, 2018 by

Published in the June 12, 2018 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA 

WAKEFIELD — The Town Council won’t be advocating as a board for the $8 million rehab of the Public Safety Building that will go before the voters at a Special Election on June 26. But at their meeting last night, they did decide to release a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) document on the project that was based on questions that that came up at Town Meeting, during a recent public forum or that came directly from citizens.

Chairman Peter May said that while he didn’t think the board should be telling people how to vote, “We do want to get the information out there.”

May noted that the public is well aware that the Town Council and the Finance Committee both voted unanimously to support the Public Safety Building project and that it passed by a 4-1 margin at Town Meeting.

Councilor Ann Santos said that the FAQ approach to provide voters with information on the project was fine with her.

“I have no problem telling them how to vote either,” she added.

Councilor Tony Longo also liked the idea of putting out information in the form of a question and answer document.

“I don’t think people were told the facts when they signed the petition,” he said.

Longo was referring to a petition that was submitted after Town Meeting. The Town Charter says that if 200 citizens petition the Town Council to put any Town Meeting article to a vote in a town-wide election, the Town Council must schedule such an election. Those signatures were collected and the Special Election has been set for June 26, with all precincts voting at the Galvin Middle School.

Councilor Ed Dombroski agreed with May that, as a board, the Town Council shouldn’t be telling people how to vote. “But we should get the information out there.”

Councilor Paul DiNocco wondered if it would make sense to do a presentation on the Public Safety Building at the Senior Center.

Town Counsel Thomas Mullen indicated that the Town Council could legally advocate collectively or as individuals for the ballot question as long as no town funds were spent. “You can write a letter to the editor, you can do a press release,” he said. “You may not spend town money.”

The town’s web site currently features the full feasibility study that was done for the Public Safety Building as well as video of the presentation and discussion that occurred at Town Meeting on May 7. More material, as well as a place for citizens to submit questions, will be added to the web site.

The FAQ that the board agreed to release follows.

1) The Public Safety Building was built in 2004, how is it that we are already refurbishing that building?

While the Public Safety Building was completed in its present state in 2004, the vast majority of the work at that time occurred on the Fire Side. We are currently working with a Police side that was built in 1950. Of the $8 Million requested for this project $6 Million is directed to the Police Side.

2) Why do we need this project at all?

The short answer is that the current configuration of the Police Side does not meet the
spatial needs of modern law protection. The Lobby is only manned during normal “business” hours. This means that people coming to the Police for assistance during the evenings or on weekends are greeted by a phone, NOT an officer. The HVAC system is inadequate. The IT server room is susceptible to leaks from the roof and overheating putting our 911 system at risk. The evidence room is not properly located. The building lacks private interviewing space for victims of crimes.

We also need to replace the heating, ventilation and electrical systems.

3) So, if the needs are spatial in nature, why not just relocate certain disciplines to an offsite location?

The decentralization of the Police function is not a best practice per our Police Chief. Also, the moving of certain disciplines to an offsite location do nothing to repair the other issues enumerated in number 1 above.

4) How will this plan alleviate the spatial issue?

The plan is to “bump out” the front left side of the building (Police side) for all three stories. This addition will add the necessary space to allow for the proper placement of evidence and weapons, a better detective space, adequate and private areas for family service officers and clinicians, as well as adequate space so command staff can meet. Private areas will be available for citizens to report crimes. Also, dispatch will be moved to a reworked lobby so all entering the Public safety Building will be met by a police officer.

5) I’ve also heard that the Sally Port/ Prisoner Bay is being enlarged, what and where is that?

This is the area on the Crescent Street side of the building and is where prisoners are loaded and unloaded. The area is too small and is detrimental to the safety of the officers as they unload or load the prisoners. The extra space will fix that problem.

6) With all of these spatial problems how is it that the Police Department continues to receive accreditation?

The accreditation process is more about the policies and procedures of the Police Department. These policies have been amended to ensure that the Wakefield Police department continue to follow best practices in law enforcement.

7) With all of these structural changes will any parking spaces be lost?

No, the addition in the front will be even with the Fire Side. No parking spaces will be lost.

8) Is the Fire Side adequate for the housing of any more apparatus?

Yes, the space for the fire department meets current and future needs and we have room to house more vehicles if necessary. The Fire Department will benefit from the replacement of the heating, electrical and ventilation systems. The ramp for the Fire bay will also be replaced.

9) Will the Police Department need to be relocated during the construction?

No, the plan is to phase the construction so there is no need to relocate the Police department.

10) Will the Community Room be sacrificed?

No the Community Room will remain.

11) Why not just build a new Police Station at another location?

The Permanent Building Committee did consider this but the cost for a new Police Station would be in the $25 million range plus the cost of the land. The most cost effective option is to use the current site.

12) Why now? Shouldn’t we study this issue a little longer?

The Permanent Building Committee along with the members of the Police, Fire, Public Works and other town officials have spent a year reviewing this project along with HKT architects. Due to the increasing costs of labor, steel and rising interest rates, the costs are projected to rise 8% a year. In two years an $8 million project could exceed $9.3 million.

13) Why not just handle the repairs through the Capital Planning account?

We receive over $6 million a year in Capital Planning request from the different town departments, and fund approximately $2 million of the requests. Using this fund to fix a few of the deficiencies will not solve the overall spatial issue and will choke out other needs. Large projects like the Public Safety Building are managed via our Debt Service account. Many projects have been financed through this account including The Beebe Library, McCarthy Senior Center, Dolbeare School, Woodville School, existing Public Safety Building, recreational facilities at the high school, repairs to the Town Hall and the new Galvin School.

14) Will bthe new Public Safety Building increase my taxes?

No, the financing of the Public Safety Building will paid via a bond. The annual payment for the bond will be included in the 2½ tax levy. This project can never result in an increase in taxes over the 2 ½ Tax levy without a referendum vote.

15) Are there state programs available (like for the schools) which will pay half the costs?

No, there is no state program like the School Building Program. We do however, continually ask for any and all state funds. Any received will defray the cost of the project. We currently have $500,000 in a house bond bill but often these funds do not get released.

16) Is the town planning for other projects?

Yes, we have mapped out payment scenarios for repairs to the DPW garage and Downtown streetscape improvements all through the debt service fund.

17) Will these repairs to the Public Safety Building meet our needs going forward?

Yes we expect that this project will settle the needs of the Public Safety Building for the next 50 years or more.

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