Police say a new station is needed
The Wareham Police Department will be asking voters at Monday’s Town Meeting to approve funding for a new Public Safety Complex. The department opened its doors to the public for tours in an effort to show the constraints of the current space.
The current station on Cranberry Highway was built in 1971 and was cut to about 50 percent of its planned size due to budget constraints. The Chief of Police when the station was built, Fred Besse, once told Acting Police Chief John Walcek that it was too small when it was built.
Walcek explained that when the windows are open during the summer, because the building is mostly without air conditioning, men being held in the cells can talk to anyone walking up the ramp to the front door.
The booking area, which is often the site of resistance from recently arrested people, is directly next to the cramped room where the dispatchers work to respond to all 911 calls in Wareham. One dispatcher said that many 911 calls also record yelling from those being booked mere feet away. In the dispatch room, as is the case throughout the station, officers said that there isn’t nearly enough storage space, and dispatchers store paperwork in the tiny lockers meant to hold their belongings.
The department’s six sergeants share an office with two desks and a table, while the detectives have slightly more room, but have to find somewhere else to work whenever someone is being interviewed as the department has no interview room.
The building is not accessible to those in wheelchairs, with a ramp that isn’t up to code and doorways that are too narrow for a wheelchair to fit through.
The building was first deemed to be too small in a study back in 1988. Another study in 1995 recommended replacing the facility with one about 30,000 sq. ft. in size, which is five times the size of the current station. Studies in 2002 and 2006 again deemed the building to be inadequate, and the number of calls for service have sky-rocketed over the years.
In 1990, the Wareham Police Department received to 29,013 calls over the year. So far this year, they have received 41,230 calls, with more than two months to go.
“The town has gotten its money’s worth out of this building,” Walcek said, noting that it is one of the only town facilities used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “We need things to make our lives safer, and the lives of the people who come in here safer.”
The new public safety complex would be shared with Wareham Emergency Medical Services and could also be the home for other departments, including the Department of Natural Resources, or, potentially, the Fire Districts.
The new facility would be on one of three sites already owned by the town: a parcel of land on Minot Avenue, the location of the Decas School, or the site of the current police station.
Walcek emphasized that he understands that many people in town have limited budgets, and that the department does not want to create financial hardships for people.
The station would be funded at least in part by revenue from the sales at Verilife, which the town has been putting in a designated account to pay for this project and. following its completion, other facility maintenance.