Opinion: Select Board responds to Police Building Study Committee

Sep 12, 2022
To the Editor:
Following is a letter sent to Claire Smith, chair of the police building committee, explaining the Selectmen's decision on town building usage.
Judith Whiteside
Chair, Board of Selectmen

Good evening, Claire,

Thank you for the invitation to meet with the Police Building Study Committee, but I think that The BOS made our position (and decision) clear last night. I do not see that decision being re-voted or reversed.

You and your committee have done an enormous amount of work, refining the concepts of the modern police station, exploring whether a public safety complex is an option, touring other facilities, and hashing out which sites might best fit the needs of the Town. You have looked at options that combine police, EMS, and fire, as well as other public safety organizations. You have visited many facilities, some of them joint, some of them police only. And I believe you have visited at least six Wareham sites that you have considered for a public safety complex.

Your committee has accomplished two very important things. The first, and ultimately the most important, is that you have focused on the very real need for the Town to provide more space for our Police, and to do it as soon as is possible. The second is that you have come up with two locations to recommend to the BOS: the Town Hall, and the vacant Decas property.

If the Town had unlimited resources, and the world was perfect, of course a brand new “complex” of some sort, with all the bells and whistles, would be perfect. But we don’t. The reality is that the townspeople deserve to get the best buildings for the most fiscally responsible price tag. The Sullivan plan, wholeheartedly endorsed by the BOS as a Board, and as individuals, accomplishes a great many things: and many of those things are important to our residents.

The police will get a building that is approximately 70,0000 square feet. I believe that is the amount of space recommended by the consultants to the study committee.

The police will be located within walking distance of two of our three school……and school safety is foremost in many minds, due to many recent serious and tragic events.

The seniors, and the Council on Aging, will have a one-floor space, something they have wanted for some time. Their location will have dedicated parking, exercise space, and kitchen facilities. We will have a true senior center that so many have been so vocal about recently.

Town business offices will be in one central location, again on one floor. This is a tremendous improvement. Residents can go to one office location, get their transfer station permit, beach sticker, and also pay their taxes, and register their dogs. This is truly “one stop shopping.” It also improves communication amongst departments and has other advantages such as upgraded technology and utilities.

The playing fields at the Decas property will be maintained for recreational use. And they are used by at least three sports that I know of. That certainly is a win for the residents and was also a concern that has been taken care of with this decision.

The probable price tag, and this is just based on many figures I have heard tossed around, is maybe $15 million, for a Police Station with the needed square footage (renovated building) and a Town Hall business center where residents can get everything accomplished without elevators or stairs (renovated building). The cheapest I have heard for a brand-new police station only is $35 million.

You have been the spearhead (again) for the effort to get our police officers what they need most. Your institutional knowledge has been immeasurable and so appreciated by all involved. Please believe me when I say you have accomplished this most important goal. You also focused on the need to provide more appropriate space for our seniors. You have accomplished that goal. You have made the ability of the residents to do all their town business in one location possible. Although that may not have been your original intent, you have accomplished that goal.

Is the Sullivan plan perfect? No. But it does make the best use of the resources we have…..the resources being land, existing buildings, and tax dollars.

So, I thank you and your committee for the countless hours you have spent thinking, researching, appraising, and dreaming. And for your final recommendation of the two locations….both attractive in their own right….

Thank you