By Chris Maza
WILBRAHAM – The Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend a warrant article that would earmark $23,000 for a feasibility study for the construction of a new police station.
Roger Fontaine, chair of the Police Station Feasibility Committee that was created by the Board of Selectmen in December 2013, said the committee’s goal was seek proposals from architects, engineers and other industry professionals to produce a feasibility study and preliminary design for the new facility.
“When we’re looking at the 21st century, we need to get with the program and get on board,” he said.
Fontaine also noted that the building, which measures approximately 5,000 square feet and is more than 100 years old, was never designed to be a police station.
“As a representative on the finance committee for a number of years, I think we did a lot of good work and many good projects, but I think this is probably one of the neediest,” he said. “I think I’m preaching to the choir because I think everyone has been to the police station … Safety, security and open community is certainly not a part of what we have in that building.”
The study would assess the Police Department’s space needs and evaluate the suitability of potential sites for the station. A design plan and schedule for construction of a facility measuring approximately 15,000 square feet as well as a cost estimate and implementation plan would also be included. Fontaine said there were multiple parcels that could be considered, but also pointed out that oftentimes existing buildings can be difficult to retrofit and remodel to suit the needs and activities of a police department.
Fontaine said the committee estimated a cost of $35,000 for the study. Fontaine said it had visited the recently built Palmer police station and had researched several others in the area including Monson and Northampton. Palmer allocated $35,000 for their study, while the town of Westford approved an expenditure of $50,000.
“The number is reasonable and we tried to be conservative,” he said.
Because $12,000 had already been appropriated for fiscal year 2014 (FY14), the total request from the FY15 budget worked out to be the $23,000 figure.