Police & Fire news: Town to study new site for Public Safety Building and equip officers with Tasers

Above: The lot behind and overlapping the Transfer Station site is being studied for adding a combined police and fire station. This could call for changes to the TS layout. (Image from town website)

At Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, members followed up on two discussions with the town’s emergency chiefs.

They gave both chiefs the greenlight to continue exploring a site on Middle Road for a new public safety building. (For those of you who complain about the layout of the Transfer Station, there could be some good news here.)

And they approved Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus’ request to arm his force with tasers.


Earlier this month, Chief Paulhus requested permission to purchase tasers and train police officers to use them. This week, Selectmen unanimously approved the request.

The only objection was from resident Donna McDaniel. She criticized the board for voting without widley publicizing the issue for public comment.

Selectmen rebutted that the agenda was publicly advertised. And they pointed out that another issues on the agenda brought many residents out to comment.

The board believed lack of response on this issue indicated lack of concern from residents.

Public Safety Building

Town employees updated the BOS on their investigation into a new public safety building. The presentation detailed why the current buildings no longer meet the town’s needs.

One of the issues was capacity, including:

  • Police Station lacks separate jail cells for females or juneniles. (Legally, females must be seperated from male prisoners by sight and juveniles from adults by both sight and sound.)
  • Fire station’s 4 bays, require “stacking” vehicles behind eachother. In emergency responses, vehicles must be shifted to allow rear vehicle out. And if a front vehicle becomes incapacitated, the rear vehicle would be boxed in.
  • The Fire station has a sincle bathroom and shower which must be shared by males and females

Other issues included costs of needed repairs, lack of storage for files and equipment, and poor conditions for the emergency staff working in the sites.  Selectman John Rooney reacted to the condition of the property as “somewhat embarassing”.

The group* also listed impediments for using the current site for updated facilities. (You can read the overview in the meeting packet, beginning on page 19. Or watch the full presentation here, starting 2 hrs 45 minutes in.)

Town Administrator Mark Purple informed the board that town owned land at the Transfer Station appears to be a viable location.

Designated as 0 Middle Road**, the mostly empty lot overlaps the current recycling area of the town Transfer Station on Cordaville Road/Route 85. The main egress would likely be via Rte 85 at the existing traffic light.

Of course, the main benefit to the town would be avoiding the cost of purchasing land. That was what prompted Bonnie Phaneuf  to ask the group to investigate the site when they were before the board in July.

Purple said that upon initial investigation, it looks good. He sought permission to continue studying the site at no cost.

The TA explained they need to figure out if the site will work for fire, police and the transfer station. He said they need to see if they can:

make the transfer station in a better more economical pattern, traffic pattern, flow pattern, manageability for [DPW Director Karen Galligan] to assign personnel there to manage it as well as to provide a sustainable location for a public safety facility that can serve this town for the next 50-70 years.

If that appears to work, they would also make recommendations on how to use the current public safety buildings for other town departments. One possibility was having the Recreation Department move into the Fire Station.

The board still wasn’t ready to appoint an official committee to the project. Selectman Dan Kolenda said that if other groups like the Advisory Board wanted to help the effort that would be welcomed. But he believed creating a special committee at this stage would lead to “analysis paralysis”.

*The group currently working on the project is Purple, Fire Chief John Mauro, Chief Paulhus, Finance Director Brian Ballentine, and Facilities Director John Parent.

**[Editor’s Note: If you “google” 0 Middle Road, you will be pointed to the wrong spot on the map. Google Maps confuses the mostly empty lot with abutting properties 118-134 Middle Road or 206 Turnpike Road.]


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Peter Quirk
9 years ago

Was any evidence presented on the lethality of Tasers? There is a large and growing list of fatalities listed here: http://truthnottasers.blogspot.com/2008/04/what-follows-are-names-where-known.html

Donna McDaniel
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

I hoped for more discussion of the Taser decision and e-mailed the selectmen my concerns and mostly asking why the hurry– proposed at one meeting and adopted at the next. I did speak to my concern and especially to the lack of public knowledge about it…. but let’s just say there wasn’t a positive reception. If you would like a copy of what I wrote, look up my phone number and give me a call and leave your e-mail address. But I am not pursuing it further myself… I don’t have any time for lost causes!. But glad to know someone else is concerned.

SB Resident
9 years ago

I’m surprised that no one has expressed at least any dislike for the idea of relocating the public safety buildings. I understand that there is a problem that needs to be solved, but our town center is already lacking, removing the fire and police stations would be a shame. I’d love to see a ‘vision’ for main st come from our town leaders.

9 years ago
Reply to  SB Resident

If we did move them, I think it could be good for main street if we had something that was more of a draw. Obviously we need a good fire department and police station, but they aren’t exactly buildings that I would ever visit.

I’d be happy to see some type of retail move in, or a nice restaurant, or something that would bring me to downtown more often. As it is, my view of downtown is that it’s pretty, but I have little reason to ever actually go there.

Just Curious
9 years ago
Reply to  Southville

I suggest that if we move the police and fire departments, the land should be sold so elderly housing or affordable housing with first preference for town employees be built at that location.

On the other hand, why not just take some of St. Mark’s meadow via eminent domain? We’d have to pay for it but that might be the best solution. I could be dead wrong but maybe that may be worth some discussion.

downtown resident
9 years ago
Reply to  Just Curious

To those who would like Southborough’s “downtown” to have more of a draw…please remember that our Main St. is a residential area where many families have lived for generations. We have rt. 9 for restaurants and other retail businesses. Our town is not set-up in the same fashion as say, Wellesley or Newton. We do not want more traffic, as the neighborhood cannot support it. Also, we do not want the street widened so that it’s just steps from our front doors. This is a subject that has been on the table for years and an altogether different topic from that of the needs of the fire and police stations.

Al Hamilton
9 years ago

Ok, so far here are the reasons why we have to spend $20,000,000

1. The fire station roof leaks
2. We have a Co Ed Shower in the Fire Station (no one can walk across the drive to the police station to use the showers there?)
3. We have not done a good job of maintaining the Fire and Police Stations. (Why will anything be different in the future? The underfunding of capital maintenance is a systemic problem in our community.)
4. We need a juvenile holding cell. (The last time I looked at the numbers we have about 180 guests per year of all types)
5. Once in a while we need to get quick access a piece of equipment in the second row. (Note if you look around the Commonwealth you will see a lot of fire stations with the same config.)

The availability of the land is really a red herring (or perhaps the thin edge of the wedge). The real issue is that no body has made a remotely reasonable case for a new (incredibly expensive) facility. Nobody has suggested how spending $20,000,000 will improve the services that we pay taxes for.

I am not anti Fire Dept or Anti Police Dept but I am Pro Taxpayer. I think we really need to look at a plan that:

1. Deals with the deferred capital maintenance in both buildings
2. Makes selective additions to each facility to resolve specific shortcomings

This will probably mean that we will have to bring the Police Station up to code including ADA compliance (Think elevator and bathroom).

The deck is stacked against taxpayers when it comes to public construction in this state. We need to think in terms of what we really need as opposed to what we want.

Just Curious
9 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

M. Hamilton has highlighted some significant issues that will make him unpopular with some in own which is nothing new for him. (I suspect he enjoys the role of contrarian.)

Nonetheless, Mr. Hamilton brings up very valid concerns. TWNETY MILLION DOLLARS worth of concerns. It is not just the money, it is the FACT that committing the town to spending this money will limit other capital projects the town might wish to pursue. Those projects that might fall by the wayside due to this colossal project include a new library, a new senior center, and a recreation center.

This issue warrants significant public discussion and an in-depth explanation of what is truly necessary. I do not know the details myself and know only what was shown on the cable show from the last BOS meeting.

Perhaps the Library Trustees would consider sponsoring a public forum on this issue to allow members of the public to learn more. Perhaps the police and fire Chiefs could hold a meeting in their stations to outline their plans and show the condition of the buildings.

In any event, I hope Mr. Hamilton keeps ‘beating the drum’ on this issue. TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS is worth the effort.

Frank Crowell
9 years ago
Reply to  Just Curious

Unless the town plan includes selling some of the buildings we have, not sure I can support any part of $20M being spent.

Mark Ford
9 years ago

Are we opening up this discussion again? If so, I hope this study includes an assessment of the Town’s real estate holdings in general. What about Fayville Hall, the Fayville Athletic Club, the Senior Center, the Arts Center, the old Fire Station 2, the unused space at Neary…am I missing anything? Maybe a sale of some of these assets and consolidation would help fund a new public safety facility.

A couple of other quick questions come to mind regarding our current public safety situation: how often is the “stacking” of vehicles in the Fire Station a problem? I’m sure we optimize the placement of vehicles in the four bays. Is our vehicle maintenance so suspect that we’re concerned about an incapacitated emergency response vehicle? When is the last time that happened? Can’t we solve the fire station shower problems with a relatively inexpensive renovation?

How often are individuals held in a jail cell? When is the last time we held multiple people? When is the last time we needed to hold a female or juvenile and male simultaneously?

I’ve toured both facilities, and they are older and perhaps outdated. But before we start marching down the path of a new build, we might want to gauge the taxpayer’s willingness to fund this multimillion dollar expense. Is there a less costly way to address the problem?

Donna McDaniel
9 years ago

Take a look at the 9/23 TV broadcast of the Selectmen’s meeting (See Southborough Media Access for schedue-) Truth is when it came up years agoI wasn’t an enthusiast for new facilities –but that was before I saw exactly how terrible those facilities are. So I hope we can all see the pictures and/or even get a tour of the facilities.. I’m ashamed this facility is in my town.
Re the cell for a youth that someone downplayed–I’m betting the state requires that along with a number of “nicetie” (necessities) like a separate dressing room, etc. for a female officer. Office space for the officers writing reports, making schedules, holding meetings. How about a spot to make/have lunch?
Do we have money, no? How can we do anything about this? I don’t know. But … well, be honest and take a look. Would YOU want to be going to work everyday under those conditions? What kind of office do you check into in the morning? What does your garage look like?

Finn School Parent
9 years ago

Back to the tasers question about lethality. They have done studies on the weapons that the SPD is currently utilizing and they are a great deal more lethal than the tasers so….I’d rather give the cops the less lethal tasers. I would also like their use noted in the Police blotter with a little bit more description than “Services Rendered”.

9 years ago

If public safety buildings are relocated, what about all the expensive, exclusive design accomodations made for main street reconstruction to suit the present location.

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