Committee to explore public safety complex, stand-alone police station

May 20, 2021

Facing limited funding due to lower-than-expected marijuana revenues and other financial setbacks, the Public Safety Complex Study Committee is considering adjusting its mission and focusing on the town’s most pressing public safety need: A new police station.

The committee has been evaluating locations and approaches to building a larger complex that would house a police station, Wareham’s emergency medical service and other public safety agencies.

But it’s possible that approach will no longer be feasible, according to Town Administrator Derek Sullivan.

At a May 20 meeting of the Public Safety Complex Study Committee, Sullivan encouraged the committee to evaluate the possibility of building only a new police station. 

Sullivan was tasked with creating a request for proposals to have an engineer determine the potential spacial needs of the larger public safety complex.

Committee Chair Claire Smith explained that the engineer would conduct a full analysis of the existing infrastructure, talk to emergency responders about their wants and needs and make predictions about what the town would look like — and need in terms of emergency services — in 30 years or even 50 years. 

From there, the engineer would estimate things like the necessary square footage of the proposed public safety complex and how much it might cost to build it. 

Sullivan suggested the committee add a second part to the RFP that would yield square footage and cost estimates for a stand-alone police station.  

“My recommendation is to have an alternative in there that’s just for the police station,” Sullivan said. “Let’s put that as part of it to see what the feasibility would be on that.”

He said he knew the committee wanted to look at the complex holistically but said that a slimmed-down police station-only plan might be necessary. 

“We need to get this done within the parameters of funding,” Sullivan said.

Originally, he said, the plan had been to fund it through 25 percent of the town’s marijuana revenue along with other town revenue sources. But Sullivan said, “we have no method of funding this right now,” because of covid-19.

He said the committee needs “the cheapest proposal possible that gets us the most.”

“Frankly, [...] the station for the police department’s the most important by far,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan also reported that Southcoast Health said it had no interest in selling a property on Cranberry Highway to the town. Officials had expressed interest in exploring whether that property — which is across from the Rosebrook Place Five Guys — would be a good location for the proposed public safety complex.

Southcoast’s disinterest in selling means the committee will continue to look at other public and private properties.

Selectman Patrick Tropeano said he was “not surprised” that Southcoast opted not to sell the land.

Smith acknowledged the group’s financial constraints. 

“I know there’s some concern financially at this point because, you know, the marijuana money isn’t coming in quite like the expectation [...]. We didn’t get the Notos development approval,” she said. “And all those things going forward will have an impact on the budget.”

She said, moving forward, that it’s crucial the committee think about how the project is going to be funded. 

“It’s either going to have to be grants, or it’s going to have to be [...] a debt-exclusion override,” Smith said. 

Another committee member said he heard that the police station in Carver was “built entirely through grants,” and suggested the town consult other municipalities and consider reaching out to a grant writer. 

Sullivan said: “This won’t get funded through a debt exclusion from the town.” He said he thought it wouldn’t cost that much more to get a spacial needs study for both the complex and just a police station. 

“I think showing the voters, you know, that, ‘here’s the choice,’ — I think it also points out that this committee has done its homework in pointing out ‘here’s an alternative,’” Smith said of the plans to consider a public safety complex and just a police station. 

She said she hoped that giving voters a choice would make the project more appealing to voters. 

The committee unanimously approved Sullivan’s idea to put out a request for proposals that asked for an engineer to evaluate the spacial needs of both the larger public safety complex and an alternative of only a police station.

Sullivan said he thought the request for proposals would go out after the Town Meeting currently scheduled for June 12. The committee will evaluate and rank proposals once they come in. 

“We’re going to figure out a way to get this done,” Tropeano said. “I hope that we’ll kind of be able to go forward before May of 2022.”

Smith agreed, emphasizing how overdue the project was.

“It certainly is time — 25 years is a long time to wait,” she said.