Police Building Study Committee members express frustration with recent town plans

Sep 9, 2022

Members of the Police Building Study Committee, long tasked with finding a new home for the police department in Wareham, were clear in their exasperation at the Board of Selectmen during the committee’s meeting Thursday.

“They took a vote, and they voted in favor of the Town Administrator’s plan,” chair Claire Smith said during the meeting. “I was blown away. Totally blown away that the Selectmen would take a vote without a full discussion or without knowing any of the fine details. It just blew me away.”

The vote Smith was referencing is one the Board of Selectmen made unanimously on Aug. 23 to recommend that Town Administrator Derek Sullivan move forward on his proposal to move around town departments between the Multi-Service Center, Town Hall and the now-vacant Decas school building.

Weeks ago, Sullivan first proposed repurposing the three buildings in a shuffle where the Decas school would house town departments and the Council on Aging, the Multi-Service Center would become a community center hub and the police department would relocate to Town Hall.

The board voted in favor of Sullivan’s plan after a board member asked questions about the property’s playing fields and parking availability.

In a letter dated Aug. 24 from board chair Judith Whiteside on behalf of the selectmen to the committee, Whiteside thanks the Police Building Study Committee for their time and effort in studying the needs of the police department and options for the future.

“You have been the spearhead (again) for the effort to get our police officers what they need most,” the letter reads. “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...So, I thank you and your committee for the countless hours you have spent thinking, researching, appraising, and dreaming.”

The frustration of several committee members stems from what they say is “disrespect from the town toward the Police Building Study Committee and the Decas School Steering Committee,” the latter of which was also tasked with examining the feasibility of a town-owned building for future reuse.

The fact that the Town Administrator’s proposal didn’t come before either committee in a meeting was “nothing short of jaw-dropping to me,” Smith said, adding that her views aren’t reflective of the committee’s overall.

Fellow committee members did chime in with their respective frustrations throughout Thursday’s meeting, echoing Smith’s concerns over the time they’d spent analyzing potential future sites.

Others, like member Patrick Tropeano, said there was a good side to the board’s decision: Now they’ve committed to creating a new police station, which he called “a plus.”

After discussing their options and whether or not the committee itself should be dissolved, the group decided to postpone the next meeting until the town’s engineering consultants have completed an initial review of the Town Hall property’s viability as a police station.