Letter: Approving police building bond item is a no-brainer
To the Editors:
I knew the present state of our police department’s building was bad, but taking our department’s building tour earlier this week really gave me a much better sense of just how bad it is. The need for something a lot better is crystal clear.
For example, the only large meeting room also doubles as the emergency management center. So when it’s in use in that capacity, everything from full shift briefings to training sessions have to be moved to the only other space large enough to accommodate more than a couple of people. That is the lunch room, which isn't very big either and also itself doubles full-time as a cubicle area for officers to prepare reports. Similarly, the space to receive prisoners has to double as interview space for victims. So it naturally cannot be used in both of those conflicting capacities at the same time.
Likewise, the small indoor shooting range has been non-operational for three years due to lead-contamination issues. While the lead contaminants have now been removed, the range cannot be made OSHA-compliant without a new and expensive ventilation system which there is no point in doing if the building is to be redesigned and expanded as it clearly needs to be. The officers presently have to use the outdoor range up by the transfer station. While that is well out of the way, rules require that outdoor ranges be used only during school hours to avoid the chance of a child happening to be in the area when the range is in use. This rule limiting use of outdoor ranges to when school is in session means that the department's outdoor range can’t be used at all over the entire summer.
As only one further example, two lieutenants squeeze into one office that isn't much larger than a closet. The list of gross deficiencies all around the building goes on and on.
When this building was designed, our town had a considerably smaller population and a force commensurate with that smaller population size. Now the force is 20 officers larger to meet the needs of a larger town population. But our town population has long stabilized, and so the force is not likely going much higher in number of officers than it is now; so a building designed for 45 officers would do the job for the foreseeable future. This building, designed for about half that number, definitely does not. There are ways potentially of doing a rebuild that could be very cost-effective and could, for example, add an extra story to the existing building and rebuild the present space below that new story to have a building that really works for the needs of our department.
And we are very fortunate to have a police department with great morale and high retention rates notwithstanding their current building’s glaring deficiencies. Leaving this building uncorrected, though, is no way to treat very able and devoted town employees who put their lives at risk for us, and those inadequacies certainly can't be much of a morale builder even as they also hamper efficient operations.
So the need is evident, and all that is on the ballot is the funding to enable consideration of the best way forward to make a good working environment for our outstanding police department. A vote in favor of that modest step forward is a definite no-brainer.
Wilton, April 25