Opinion: Let’s Do The Right Thing; Vote ‘Yes’ On Town Meeting Article 23

Photo: Belmont Police Headquarters

Have you visited the Belmont police station lately? Or dropped recyclables off at the Department of Public Works yard? Have you noticed the condition of those buildings? Have you tried to climb the 21 stairs to meet with Police Chief Richard McLaughlin? Do you know that our plow drivers have no place to eat or rest after eighteen hours of plowing snow? Have you experienced a sewer back-up in your basement? Do you know that DPW workers have no place to shower or change clothes after wading through raw sewage? Do you know that the female police officers who work in our neighborhoods and schools have only tiny locker space crammed into a bathroom?

Many professional evaluations over the years have determined that the police station and DPW facility are in far worse condition than any other town buildings. The time is now to finally meet the urgent needs of our employees by providing safe, accessible, gender appropriate working space.

The November 2017 Special Town Meeting authorized a building committee to address both the police and DPW. The committee has been working all out since December to present schematic designs to Town Meeting on May 30th.

The proposed solution for the DPW facility has two-prongs. In the short-term, renovate a small section of the DPW main building and add modular units which will house locker rooms, shower and laundry space, room for training and quiet rest and a small amount of office space. Renovations to the existing space will provide a more suitable kitchen and break room space and additional restrooms. This first phase will provide greatly improved working conditions for about $1.2 million. Long-term, the Town must pledge to construct a totally new facility on the existing site within ten years.

The solution for the police station is a brilliant design to renovate and add to the existing building on Concord Avenue. This will meet the department’s needs indefinitely. This extraordinary proposal includes additional construction on the back of the station as well as a sally port on the Pleasant Street side. The completed addition and renovation will provide new locker room space for both genders, new holding cells, safe and secure entry and booking space for prisoners, an elevator and second stair, evidence storage, meeting space and more. The proposed design respects the historic features of the building, provides an accessible entrance and additional parking. The permanent solution can be accomplished for between $6.2 and $7.5 million, which is a quarter of the cost of a new facility.

This proposal can be paid for out of the operating budget and will not require a debt exclusion. The advantage of this funding approach is that the work can begin immediately and will not interfere with either the library or high school plans for debt exclusions. The plan is the result of tremendous creativity by the building committee, the architect and owner’s project manager, the Town Administrator, and the Town Treasurer as well as the enthusiastic support of police and DPW personnel.

This proposal is a significant step forward for the Police and DPW who have languished in substandard working conditions for decades. As a town, we depend on our police department to keep us safe. We depend on our DPW to plow the snow, keep clean water flowing to our homes, and maintain our playgrounds.

Please urge your Town Meeting Members to vote YES on Article 23. It is the right thing to do.

DPW/Belmont Police Department Building Committee
Kathleen Cowing, Secretary
Roy Epstein
Anthony Ferrante, Vice-Chair
Anne Marie Mahoney, Chair
Stephen Rosales
Judith Ananian Sarno, Treasurer
William Shea
Michael Smith

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