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Posted on December 13, 2014 at 2:03 PM by Jeffrey Rudinski
As the Police Chief, I extend a warm welcome to all town residents to see their police facility and to greet some of their police officers and dispatch staff.
As you tour the facility today, I would like to share some history of the department and the building.
The building at 16 Main St. was constructed during the Roosevelt Administration (Teddy, not Franklin) in 1904, and its first purpose was to function as a school house.
It was later repurposed and functioned as the Town Hall. In 1954 the formation of a police department was laid out when the Selectmen appointed supplementary uniformed special police officers to assist the state police. By 1963 the Wilbraham police department consisted of a Chief and three regular officers, eventually the police department was located in the basement of the town hall at 16 Main St.
In September of 1975 a Fire and Police Study Committee was formed and charged with developing a plan to meet the long term needs of the Wilbraham Police Department. The police department was simply outgrowing the basement facility. A site was selected on Stony Hill Rd. south of the Wilbraham Middle School (today it is soccer fields) and an architectural design produced a floor plan that would meet present and future needs with a 12,490 sq. Ft. facility. This design also incorporated planned room for future expansion at an estimated completed cost of $815,000 dollars. At this time the police force was 26 members, however, the facility was not built.
In 1978, the town developed a plan to construct a new town hall which is now located at 240 Springfield St. This building resembles the design of the proposed police department. Upon completion of the new town hall, plans were developed to remodel the old town hall (at 16 Main St.) with the Police Department and Central Dispatch utilizing the work space available in this 5,300 sq. ft. building. The police building committee charged in 1975 with the development of the plan considered this option during their study. It was determined “that the site, size and building restrictions would give short term relief for a large expenditure at best.” This remodel project was budgeted for $315,000 dollars and was completed in 1981.
In 2002 a technical study report was completed to once again develop a plan that would meet the needs of the public safety departments in town. When their task was completed, a site was chosen behind the current town hall and architectural plans were completed. Ultimately, alternative plans were used to provide relief for the two sites currently used by the Wilbraham Fire Department and the Public Safety Facility was not built.
The Wilbraham Police Department remains a force of 26 strong, after a reduction from 29 officers, 38 years later! The Central Dispatch Department has increased its staff to seven and half members to respond to additional calls for service and to implement and maintain requirements to operate State 911 services, and the ever changing and advancement in the technology of the times. The growth of residential and commercial development in town over the last four decades can not be disputed, and the challenges of maintaining the expected level of service to the community can not be ignored.
The current challenges with the 110 year old facility are many, and you’ll probably notice a few as you tour the building:
1) The current building by square footage and design standard is 150% smaller than what was recommended in 1975. The lack of space effects both administrative and operational functions of the police department. Storage space is severely limited and usually consists of metal lockers lining hallways. By example; the supervisors (Sergeants and Captains) shared office space resembles that of the old TV cop show, Barney Miller. The one interview room in the building should serve by design that sole purpose. At last count it serves at lease six purposes; report writing station, MIRCS firearms license processing area, Breathalyzer testing area, evidence review by Defense Atty’s., paper storage closet, and more importantly an inadequate Emergency Operations Center, used frequently over recent years in town to manage large scale disasters. The unheated break room in the basement also functions as our training and meeting room.
2) The building during the remodel was not designed or wired to handle the level of technology growth that is taken for granted today. As you tour the building, you’ll notice bundles of communication and computer wires that have been added to support the technology has been cobbled together, not in a best practices method, but the best we could do with the limitations of space and resources available. The available technology in 1986 consisted of one teletype machine to run RMV listings and conduct warrant checks, a few electric typewriters with carbon paper, although the manual typewriters were still in plain view around the PD. In 1998, the department went live with a computer system. A conditioned space was developed in an otherwise damp or moisture prone basement to better preserve valuable State 911 communication equipment and the department’s computer file servers. The goal of a new facility would be to congregate all communication and other sensitive electronic equipment in a common area that can be properly protected.
3) The security of the facility is of constant concern. The only back door is also the primary entrance for department staff. Handicapped persons needing administrative police services must also use this entrance. However, this back door also opens directly into the booking and cell block area, where arrestees are brought, processed and detained. The design of a new building would incorporate all functions of prisoner processing in a single secure area. This building access point would no longer interrupt the prisoner processing function. This change would increase the security level of the arrestee and officers. While eliminating the risk to those persons currently needing to passing through this area.
4) According to our current architect, and those who have assessed the building in the past, it is not compliant or fully accessible to handicapped persons with either the Federal law, ADA (Americans Disability Act) or State law, ABB (Architectural Access Board. The four holding cells do not meet the codes required today, but, are grandfathered under older regulations because of their built date. These regulations have changed to reduce the opportunity suspects can do themselves harm while in police custody, while decreasing the potential liability to the officers and the community.
5) The building utilizes inefficient heating and cooling systems with combinations of outdated mechanical systems which have long exceeded their life expectancy. Some work areas actually do not have any direct heating or cooling available at all, with no make up air for code required air exchanges. Public safety facilities of today are designed with separate utility, and HVAC systems for Dispatch Centers with increased fire protection ratings.
6) The visible brick and mortar foundation walls are crumbling due to the moisture migration in the basement. During extended periods of rain, a shop vacuum is used to collect water from the floor in the buildings electrical room and break area.
As your tour comes to a close, I hope that you have had sufficient opportunity to observe the work environment of the Wilbraham Police and Dispatch staff, and have a better understanding of the needs of the men and women who provide those services. As the town once again prepares to evaluate the needs of your police department facility, I would request your support while we seek to find a long term practical and efficient solution. Please don’t hesitate to ask the staff any questions and we hope you enjoyed your brief stay in the Town’s police facility.
Roger W. Tucker
Chief of Police