The current Police Station was built in 1975 for about $175,000 to house 21 Full Time Police Officers when the only electronic devices in the building were a radio and an electric clock. Over the next twenty five years, policing changed and with the turn of the century we increased our police force by 50%, 911 Dispatch was introduced and we started an electronic records management system using only two computer terminals. The 9/11 Terrorist attack and Anthrax scares changed policing forever. These events forced us to put up walls separating our Dispatch from the public; isolating us from the public and further cramping conditions.
Fast forward to 2016, 41 years after this Station was built, there is now a computer on every desk, some have two. 911 Dispatchers have changed to Emergency Medical Dispatchers and every crime has some level of electronic device attached to it. The police station, that was built 40 years ago and is used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, owes us nothing. The building has served the purpose it was designed for and it is tired, worn and ready to retire.
Over the past 14 years, I have done my job as Chief of making the woefully outdated building work despite the cramped conditions, failing electrical, mechanical systems and lack of American Disabilities Act requirements. My frugal thrifty nature made it palatable. But now the life, health and safety hazards are too great to just be ignored. If I ignored them at this point, I would not be doing my job as Chief. As a Town, we have to do something.
In order to help decide what that something is, at the Board of Selectmen’s direction, we formed a public safety building committee and hired an architectural firm to conduct a feasibility study to identify the building deficiencies and explore possible solutions and the costs associated with providing the citizenry with a police facility that meets their needs. I have attached a copy of the study and both of my Town Meeting presentations to www.westport-ma.com/police.department and on our Facebook page” Westport Police Department”. Also, look for my 10 minute presentation on our local cable access channel, and online on VIMEO (vimeo.com/westportcommunitytv).
Please take the time to read it or watch and form your own opinion. The most important part of the study is section (2) “existing station evaluation” it outlines in great detail what is wrong with our current building; If you only have time for a condensed version, please read section (6)” Feasibility Study Presentation”, which is a copy of the slide-show presentation.
WE NEED TO ACT! Ultimately, the Police Station is a Town-owned building and it belongs to you and ultimately you will decide what its' fate will be. As your Police Chief, on August 2nd,I am asking you to re-affirm the vote that was taken at this year’s Annual Town Meeting to borrow by debt exclusion, not to exceed a limit of $8 million dollars, for a proposed new Police Station. The average annual tax impact over the course of the bond would be $33.87 for a house with a $200,000 evaluation, $53.35 for $300,000 and $64.66 for $400,000. This would allow the community to have a safe, secure and efficient Police facility for today and years to come.
IF WE DO NOTHING - We risk the building needing to be under an emergency evacuation, like our neighboring Dartmouth P.D, risk legal action from ADA Discrimination claims, employee unsafe working conditions, and detainee’s civil rights or wrongful death claims. We will need to purchase or rent trailers to replace lost space in the basement for records, evidence and office space (wasted money). We will not be able to provide you the service you deserve from a professional Police Department.
Thank you, for helping the Police Department serve you better.
Keith A. Pelletier, your Chief of Police
You can find the PowerPoint Presentation and other informative documents attached below