Photo: The future home (to the left) of the Belmont Police Department.
The future home of the Belmont Police Department will be located in a wooded corner of the Water Division facility at the end of Woodland Street. That’s if Town Meeting accepts the recommendation of the body created recently to analyze the town’s major capital projects.
But according to the chair of the Major Capital Project Working Group, the long-term solutions to the Police Department’s inadequate and substandard headquarters at the corner of Concord Avenue and Pleasant Street as well as constructing a new Department of Public Works facility could take more than a decade before the first shovel breaks ground on either project.
“We are looking for some immediate fixes for both of these facilities to remediate accessibility and just to create a humane conditions for our employees,” Anne Marie Mahoney told the Belmontonian on Friday, Sept. 29 after it announced an initial outline on the future of two of the five town facilities – besides the police headquarters and the DPW buildings, a new ice skating rink, the former incinerator site and Belmont Public Library – the working group was in charge of reviewing.
The renovation/new construction at Belmont High School is well on its way under the charge of its own building committee and the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The first concrete step towards finding a solution will be an article in the Nov. 13 Special Town Meeting warrant which will include a request for “short-term remedies” at the current Police headquarters and the DPW buildings that will include updated changing and shower areas as well as improved office space, according to Mahoney.
The Working Group is holding a public meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Beech Street Center to discuss both long and short-term plans.
The police headquarters will also have an exterior elevator shaft installed to make the building Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and install a fence and roof to create a more secure sally port when officers bring those arrested into the building.
The article will seek $370,000 – $230,000 for the police and $140,000 at the DPW – for schematic designs. Two line items in the town budget that the funds can be appropriated are either the Kendall School Insurance Account or the fines assessed against the former Cushing Village owner/developer for delays in closing the project, according to Town Treasurer Floyd Carman, who is a Working Group member.
“We want to make the building habitable for the people working there,” said Mahoney.
Once the designs are submitted, the town will come back to Town Meeting – Town Treasurer and Working Group member Floyd Carman said that would occur in May or June 2018 – seeking a bond authorization of between $4 million to $5 million for the remedies.
During this time the Working Group will complete a report that will discuss the long-term solutions including moving the police station to Woodland and renovating the DPW yard. Recent estimates have each building project costing north of $20 million. But the permanent solution “won’t be discussed for years,” said member Roy Epstein, who is chair of the Warrant Committee.
“We don’t want a dust-up over money” when the cost of the projects will be broad estimates for years to come, said Epstein.
The reason the Working Group is not asking for a long-term fix immediately is how such projects are funded. Capital projects are financed through a debt exclusion, which will include the high school renovation/new construction project with an expected price tag of $200 million.
“Funding is the issue which is why we are not going forward with an ask for both buildings. and that’s why they are always at the end of the line,” said Mahoney
Yet there is at least one town department which would like to move forward on a long-term solution. Assistant Police Chief James McIsaac, who was sitting in on Friday’s meeting, suggested the debt exclusion vote for a new police station be placed on the same ballot as the high school project, either in November 2018 or April 2019.
Created in February, the Working Group has been actively gathering data and interviewing parties impacted by the project. On Thursday, the members sat down with 20 residents from Woodland Road and Waverley Terrace to discuss placing the police station in the Water Division yard.
“It went very well,” said Mahoney, with homeowners telling her their greatest concerns were landscaping and keeping the headquarters out of eyesight of the neighbors’ homes.