Chief Kelly makes the case for the new police station

By John M. Kelly, Chief of Police

Littleton Independent - Tue Apr 29, 2008, 03:50 PM EDT

LITTLETONPlease allow me to share some important facts with my neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens concerning the upcoming decision whether to move forward with the building of a Police and 911 Call Center.

Primary Issues and Concerns with the Current Police Facility:  

  1. The building was designed and built by a bank architect in 1977. As a result it was not and never will be a safe and functional modern police facility.
  2. The current 911 call center is not “stand alone”, meaning that it is susceptible to being completely compromised and shut down through an assault by means of a vehicle, small arms fire, hazardous waste, poison, small bomb, or the like. As a result the ability of our emergency services to respond to your needs can easily be compromised as all calls and responses for assistance of all kind originate here.
  3. The 911 call center has only one exit/entrance and no bathroom facilities. The dispatcher on duty has to call someone to cover the desk when they need to use the bathroom or check on a prisoner as mandated by law.
  4. We were recently sited in a report from our insurance company on the fact that the three exposed walls of the 911 Call Center are constructed of wood and siding, such as a residence. There were never any provisions put in place to afford any type of security or safety to the individuals or equipment within those walls. The insurance company is waiting to hear from the Town on its plan to address this extreme vulnerability.
  5. The current facility does not have the ability to withstand any type of “severe” weather such as a strong hurricane or earthquake, which this area has experience in the past. This past winter we had buckets catching water due to the fact that the roof needs to be replaced. An issue such as this has the potential to knock out our emergency communications and therefore our ability to respond to your needs.
  6. Due to the fact that the area to process prisoners is centrally located in the current station we do not have the ability to segregate suspects/prisoners from the other activities within the station.
    • The booking area is not “weapons free” due to the constant flow of individuals through the area.
    • Victims cannot be kept out of voice range from suspects if they are anywhere in the station. We have had threats made within our own walls between an abuser and a victim.
    • Due to the multi-uses taking place in the booking area there are always potential dangers through distraction, objects being used as weapons, and prisoners gaining access to other areas of the station.
    • Prisoners are transferred from the patrol car to the station through the parking lot, which is a significant security and safety risk each time it takes place. (245 arrests in 2007)
    • If a prisoner is in the booking area and a female employee needs to utilize the bathroom, which is within the booking area, they either must wait or the prisoner must be moved to a cell.
  7. There are no emergency exits in the building. The entire building has only two doors and 4 windows that operate.
  8. All of the hardware for emergency communications from residents to the 911 Call Center is in an unsecured, non-environmentally regulated, and non-compliant shed in the rear of the station.
  9. The current electrical system is original to the building and, due to the advances in required technology and associated hardware, is overloaded inefficient, and a daily safety concern.
  10. The Littleton Police Department is unable to be Certified or Accredited by the Mass. Commission for Police Accreditation due to the condition of its facility.

Project Historical Information:  

May, 1997  The investigation of building a new, stand alone, Police Facility/911 Call Center began in 1996 when then Police Chief Tom O’Dea brought the issue forward to the Board of Selectmen. At that time a $7,000. article was passed at Town meeting to begin funding a feasibility study. The funds were not initially utilized and were held within the article.  

May, 1999 In 1999 the Town voted additional funds, $15,000 for feasibility studies into the possibility of re-developing the current site at 20 Foster Street or developing a new site for a Public Safety Facility. The initial limited study, conducted by Goldsmith, Prest, Ringwald determined that the current site of 20 Foster Street was not conducive to re-development due to the inability to expand the sites septic system. In order to expand the system, which is housed under the parking lot, it would have to be raised 3’-5’ above ground. This was impractical as it would take away all of the necessary parking for the fire/police stations, Fay Park, and the Unitarian Church.  

May, 2000 An additional $15,000 was voted by Town Meeting to hire an architect to expand the feasibility study. The Carrel Group of Holliston Mass. was hired to conduct the study. The Board of Selectmen and the Municipal Building Committee of that day were involved in the feasibility study and subsequent design.  

March, 2001 As part of the expanded feasibility study an additional 6 sites were determined to be “possible” locations for a new Public Safety/911 Call Center Facility:

  • Chase Farm on Great Road - Currently slated for a sports complex
  • The former Stan’s Big Acres Farm on Great Road - Currently owned by the Town for the purposes of locating a stand alone Police Facility
  • The vacant lot at the corner of Great Road and Russell St. - Currently on the market for sale
  • The Former Rosley Hotel - Currently the proposed new site of Hunter Appliance
  • Light and Water Property behind the Ayer Rd. soccer field. - Currently the site of the new Town Owned BMX park
  • The former Light and Water Dept. site on Whitcomb Ave. - Currently unable to be developed due to DEP rulings

It was determined through public meetings and a Selectmen vote that the optimal location out of the 7 sites was the former Stan’s Big Acres site located at 500 Great Road.  

May, 20022003 500 Great Road was purchased, through Town Meeting Vote, for the purpose of locating a Public Safety/911 Call Center Facility. The purchase price was $525,000.  Town meeting subsequently voted to raise and appropriate $290,000. for the purpose of Designing and Engineering a new Public Safety/911 Call Center Facility to be located at 500 Great Road. The existing residence and associated farm stand at 500 Great Road was razed at a cost of $25,000. The Design and Engineering process developed through a series of 8 plans. During that process the Fire component of the plan was deleted due to cost concerns. The plan for a stand alone Police/ 911 Call Center Facility was brought to 90% completion and remains at that point. The plans are now 4 years old and must be reviewed and adjusted according to new technology, building codes, green building technology, and building design reconfiguration. The septic system at 20 Foster Street fails and DEP orders repairs. The system is currently pumped every two weeks.  

Town Land Purchases Town meeting voted to purchase the Hartwell Property and the Prouty Property in 2003. As a result of these purchases of open space the Town’s potential build-out decreased from15,000 to 12,000 residents. Due to this change through land purchases the Littleton Police Department build-out changed from approximately 30 officers to 24 officers (The US Department of Justice Standard is 2 officers per 1000 residents). With this changed in personnel build-out the size of the building was adjusted down appropriately from 18,000 to 15,000 square feet. It was the decision of the Municipal Building Committee to change the design of the facility from two floors to one, with minimal increase to the footprint of the building. The initial savings from this adjustment was $60,000 as an elevator mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act was deleted.  

Status of Plans: The TWO STORY plan was brought to 90% completion, for the cost of $290,000. We still own those plans and we are still able to use them in concert with the one floor scheme. The original costs for design did not include the Construction Documents or the Bid Process for prospective contractors.  

The Project Stalls: In 2004 discussions took place concerning additional funds to complete the design of the one floor scheme, produce construction documents, and place the project out to bid and manage that process. The decision was made to not move forward with a request for additional funds. The project now remains at that same point 4 years later.  

Re-Visit of 20 Foster Street: It was determined that the current septic system at the Littleton High School could accommodate the daily flow from the current Public Safety Site at 20 Foster Street. This development brought 20 Foster Street back into the running as a potential site for an expanded Public Safety Facility. This possibility was studied, along with the expanded Facilities Location Study, and it was determined that 20 Foster Street was no longer an option for the following reasons:The newly designed facility would not fit within the confines of the cramped site.A complete new design would have to take place, which would have wasted a large portion of the $290,000 previously spent.The new facility would have to be two stories, overwhelming the site.The Town bought the 500 Great Road site specifically for a Public Safety Facility. By re-building at the Foster Street site other departments facility needs would not be addressed.  

Fall 2007: Board of Selectmen instructed the Town Administrator to form a committee to study the facility needs of the Town. Specifically the committee was to address the needs of the Council on Aging, Park and Recreation Department, Town Hall Offices, and the Littleton Police and Fire Departments. On January 15 the Town Administrator reported back to the Board and recommended the following:Move forward with the re-configuration of the Town Offices as previously planned. Build a stand alone Police Facility/911 Call Center at 500 Great Road with a future provision for a Fire Department Component when that department moves to 24/7 coverage.Move the Park and Recreation Department to the 20 Foster St location vacated by LPD.Expand the current Council on Aging into the vacated Park and Recreation area.Once the Fire Department moves to Great Road that building would be utilized by another Town Department/function.

Two Phase Proposal by the Board of Selectmen for Project Completion:    

Spring 2008 Town Meeting Request for Funding: Why $300,000. Complete the final 10% of the design program ($115,000) Adjust the engineering for the Two Floor Plan to fit the One Floor Plan. Prepare the final Construction Documents. ($162,000.) Manage the Construction Bid Process. ($23,000.) This funding request is outside Proposition 2 1/2. The total cost of $590,000. for Architectural Services comprises 9% of the total construction cost of the project. The standard for such services is 15-20% of the total project cost.  

Fall Town Meeting – 2008: Request for Construction Funding Total Cost of Project for winter 2009(Late Fall of 2008 start) construction: $6,460,000. The total cost to an average assessed home will be $16 per month. The price of the facility in 2004 was $4,500,00 which is an increase of $500,000 per year.   The need for a new Police Station and 911 Call Center has been recognized for at least 11 years and the issue has been studied for that period of time. The existing station was poorly planned, with no thought towards future needs and growth. It was poorly constructed and offers no redeeming qualities. It has deteriorated and lacks any resemblance to the standards of a modern facility. The current conditions have gotten to the point of compromising the safety and security of the officers and citizens we serve on a daily basis.   All appropriate studies have been completed and the individuals involved have affirmed and re-affirmed that a new Police/Public Safety and 911 Call Center Facility is critical and long overdue. Your safety is being compromised on a daily basis.Now is the time to act.   Sincerely John M. Kelly Chief of Police