Public Safety building project – committee appointed and virtual tour of police station

by beth on February 5, 2015

Above: A virtual tour of the Police Station (built in 1929) led by Chief Paulhus (Produced and posted by Southborough Access Media)

The Town is moving forward on a project to evaluate Police and Fire buildings.

Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen appointed members to the Public Safety Study Committee created in January. The appointed committee will study the departments’ current facilities and explore their future options.

Meanwhile, safety chiefs are continuing efforts to explain to the community the need for the project.

Both safety chiefs made a slideshow presentation to the Board of Selectmen in the fall, detailing facility problems. Recently, Southborough Access Media followed up with them to give them a chance to make their case directly to residents. 

SAM followed Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus through a tour of the building. The video (shared above) gives a history of the 85+ year old building. It also highlights building constraints for the police department.

The Southborough Fire Department will produce a similar video with SAM soon.

Paulhus begins the Police Station tour by explaining that the building was designed originally as a school. That point is reinforced when he shows that a third of the building consists of hallways and staircases.

Wrapping up the tour, Paulhus says he is looking forward to forming the committee which will be:

working towards a more modern police facility to provide better service to the residents of Southborough.

The committee will consist of both chiefs, the Town Administrator, an Advisory Committee member (John Wood) and three citizens-at-large.

Seven residents applied. Most were lauded by selectmen for their qualifications. In the end, they agreed upon:

  • John Reed – described as a professional civil and structural engineer
  • John Lyons – a Weston Police Lt, a member of Weston’s police station study committee. (That committee determined that a combined Weston public safety complex wasn’t warranted. They did recommend a new police station. That project broke ground this past December. )
  • Al Hamilton – respected by selectmen for his past contributions to Town committees
1 John Kendall February 24, 2015 at 7:19 PM

It seems that the fire station is being ignored. I challenge Al Hamilton, Selectmen, and taxpayers to stop by the fire station this week and check out it’s ACTUAL condition. I was there last week. The ice has caused significant damage in the building which includes numerous leaks in the ceilings, floor tiles are lifting in the meeting hall, and the temperature in that hall would never be acceptable in any other building the town owns. A total disgrace!

2 Al Hamilton February 25, 2015 at 10:53 AM

John

I agree with you. I think we have done a very poor job maintaining the Fire House. I complained about it years ago when I was on the capital budget committee. The drop ceiling is very poorly insulated for example. It might as well be open to the outdoors (It is also probably part of the reason we have ice dams and leaks.)

The bigger question is why have we done such a poor job maintaining our buildings. I did an analysis a few years ago and suggested that we should probably be spending about $200 – $250k per year to properly maintain (capital maintenance not cleaning) town buildings that we have. We have a building maintenance fund but we typically draw less than 100k each year. The results are predictable. Too few funds spread over too many buildings.

I have an open mind on the public safety complex but also recognize that it will be very very expensive. However, you cannot make the case that just because we have been negligent in the care of our existing buildings we should build new ones. We need to really resolve what buildings are absolutely necessary to our operations and how much it will really cost to properly maintain them.

Spending $100,000 per year to properly maintain the police and fire stations is a whole lot cheaper than spending $1,000,000+ per year to build a new facility

3 John Kendall February 26, 2015 at 9:13 AM

Well Al, I won’t disagree with you, however, the fire station has been going downhill since it was built. The firefighters did a lot of work over the years, but the Town finally hired someone in charge of maintenance of all the facilities. Even with this position, there has been nothing but bandaids. Nobody has ever gotten to the root of the problem. Now, call me angry if you will, but the emphasis has been on the police station. Please don’t get me wrong. That building doesn’t fit the needs, and is a money pit. Heck, there is even a video describing the problems. The fire station is also in dire straits. It has become an unhealthy building. Someone should be making a video of that place TODAY. Show ALL of the damage from ice, lack of maintenance, etc. The Emergency Operations Center for the town is in the worst room of the station. Apparatus has become larger and no longer fits. They conduct ALS training in a closet! And while I’m on a roll here, I applied for a position on your committee. I was overlooked. No sour grapes here, but if you look at the composition of the committee, it’s PRO POLICE STATION. The Fire chief is alone, and that’s not fair. So I’m trusting you as I have always valued your opinions. Let’s dig into the fire station as it sits this very day, and see if we can come up with some equality. Thanks for all you do for the Town!

4 beth February 26, 2015 at 9:57 AM

There is a video tour of the Fire Station here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0piL8C6ok4

Southborough Access Media has been running it on their public channel (Charter 191, Verizon 38). You can check the schedule here: http://southboroughaccessmedia.org/schedules/SAMPubsched216-31.pdf

I hadn’t shared on my site yet, because I planned to post at the same time as another SAM video on the topic.

Apparently, the police and fire chiefs pointed SAM to a public safety building that is a good example of what they are striving towards. SAM visited the station to tour it. They took raw footage, but haven’t had a chance to finish producing and posting the video yet.

After they do, I plan to run another post on the topic with both videos.

5 John Kendall February 26, 2015 at 10:14 AM

Thank you for clarifying that Beth. It’s your blog, but I think it’s a disservice to the community to hold that video back. It also needs to be updated to show the current disrepair of Memorial Hall, AKA The EOC. If there were a disaster in town tomorrow that required opening the EOC, could they? Yes. But people would need to watch where they walk as the floor tiles are lifting due to water damage, and they would need to bundle up as that room is quite chilly due to underheating and other issues. The taxpayers deserve to know exactly what the firefighters are up against every day in that building.

6 Al Hamilton February 26, 2015 at 11:05 AM

John

I hear you. The needs of both departments need to be addressed. My best guess is that the root causes of the deficiencies are different. Both buildings like most of our other buildings have suffered from insufficient capital maintenance (too little money spread over too many buildings). Beyond that, there is a difference. The Fire Station was designed as a Fire Station about 45 years ago. the Police Station was designed as a School about 100 years ago.

The solution for the Police Station may be different than the solution for the Fire Station but both need to be addressed.

While we are on the subject of fairness, let’s make sure we treat the taxpayer fairly as well. Addressing the facilities needs of both these departments is going to be expensive, regardless of the solution we are talking about a 7 or 8 figure endeavor. There is little evidence that spending this money will improve the service delivery of either department. So, my goal is to make sure we spend the money we have to and not the money we want to and come up with a realistic plan for maintaining whatever buildings we keep in the inventory.

We should also recognize that the debt associated with these projects will put a damper on spending for operating budgets well into the future.

7 Just curious February 26, 2015 at 12:09 PM

I just don’t understand the mindset of someone who writes ” The Fire chief is alone, and that’s not fair.”

I may be not recalling this correctly, but aren’t you a retired firefighter? And isn’t the Advisory member on this committee, John Woods, a former or retired firefighter or EMT in Southborough? He seems like a fair minded person.

This committee’s objective should be to decide what is best for the taxpayers of the town, not to be a cheerleader for any one department. Although I sometimes disagree with Al Hamilton, I believe he always speaks what he believes to be the truth so I have great confidence in his opinion.

8 John Kendall February 26, 2015 at 2:13 PM

Please don’t be afraid to use your own name. And yes, I am a retired member. The police chief has a resident who happens to be a Weston PD lieutenant on his side. I don’t think it would hurt one bit to have a firefighter, current or retired to be on his side. I’m not saying spend 20-50 million on a huge complex. I’m saying let’s provide equal support. And yes, I have always had confidence in Al Hamilton.

9 just curious February 26, 2015 at 11:37 PM

Again Mr. Kendall, this committee’s objective should be to decide what is best for the taxpayers of the town, not to be a cheerleader for any one department. Writing “The police chief has a resident… on his side”, well I think that’s just wrong. But you and I will just disagree.

Let’s hope the committee finds a fair resolution to this challenge. We are fortunate there are such good people in this town would volunteer for tasks such as this.

10 beth February 26, 2015 at 11:09 AM

This is a long term project with a committee just formed. I don’t see that posting the video last week vs. next week makes any difference in the outcome.

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