LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town's police officers want an improved working environment.
The police officer's union, Lanesborough Police Officers Association MassCop, Local 390, wrote to the Board of Selectmen saying the station is "unsafe and unprofessional."
"The current unsafe and unprofessional conditions are preventing our members from effectively executing our duties and are creating a liability for the town," the letter reads. "There is an immediate need to complete the necessary and overdue renovations."
This isn't the first time the union has expressed concerns with the aging building. It was just a few years ago when the police association expressed concern with the air quality there. The town tried to rectify that by purchasing an air purifier.
"There are multiple holes in the walls of the station, some of which have towels stuffed inside of them to prevent cold air from penetrating the small and cramped workspace. The integrity of our locker room is suspect at best. Black mold has been found on the walls and other surfaces of the building. The corrective action was to provide a simple air purifier," the letter given to the Selectmen on Monday reads.
The union voiced concern about the electrical outlets, the structure of the facility, the size, and the structure's practical application in today's policing environment.
The union says not only is the small station lacking the privacy for such interviews but that electrical outlets are "dangerously overloaded with additional power strips to support equipment." There is exposed wiring over door casings and stapled to the walls. The smoke and carbon monoxide detectors don't work.
"The brick structure is significantly deteriorated and visible damage can be seen behind the broken drywall. The front entry door is badly rusted, corroded, and at times can't be secured," the letter reads. "The windows are inefficient with the locks broken or missing altogether. These are obvious security concerns for the officers working in the building."
The letter says hay bales are stacked outside the building to act as insulation. The furnace leaks and "uniforms and other clothing smell like fuel when removed for duty." There's also the need for privacy when taking statements from statements related to investigations.
"We are required by Massachusetts law to video and audio record some of these statements. The ideal scenario is to have a dedicated space to take these statements that is private, free of distractions, and is a space to eliminate barriers. This is for a number of reasons and speaks to the sciences behind efficient and effective law enforcement tactics," the letter reads.
"We ask that you put yourself in the shoes of a survivor of sexual assault and you have to give a victim in our current space. If you do so, we feel that you will understand the importance and need for a private and safe place to discuss horrific and personal details. If you were a survivor of a horrific crime and you are giving a statement in our current space, would you have the confidence that the Lanesborough Police Department will bring a successful resolution to this horrible crime? Put yourself in the shoes of a suspect who has committed this horrible crime. Would you have confidence that the Lanesborough Police Department could prove your guilt?"
Selectman Robert Ericson has been personally working on a renovation plan and has four phases planned out. Those include creating new office space, replacing the furnace, insulating ductwork and walls, installing new electrical services and doors, and making repairs throughout. It will include relocating the lockers, flooring, and general upkeep. Ericson said he is starting with the garage area and moving north.
The project is estimated to cost $20,254, with the majority of it being paid through the state's Green Communities program.
But the union said the repairs needed are far beyond what Ericson can do.
"Although we are appreciative of Selectman Ericson's effort to try and resolve these issues, we feel that the scope of this project is beyond one person's capabilities. Furthermore, the attempts to resolve some of these conditions have exposed Selectman Ericson to unsafe working conditions as it appears he is lacking required safety equipment," the letter reads.
While Ericson has been working toward fixing many of those cited issues, the officers noticed money to design brand-new police stations for Pittsfield and North Adams have been included in the state's bond bill.
"I'd love to have a new station or better accommodations, but I understand the budget is tight," Police Chief Timothy Sorrell told the Board of Selectmen.
Sorrell said he has worked out of that building for nearly 30 years. During that same period, the town of Lenox has had three different station projects. Sorrell says the condition of the town's police station is "disheartening" to many of the officers.
He is hoping state Sen. Adam Hinds will visit the station and see for himself, and maybe Lanesborough, too, can secure funding for a new station in the future.
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