PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On Tuesday morning, police arrested a woman and she wasn't being cooperative.
Officers struggled to get her up the flight of steps at the police station and then up the next flight of steps, and they maneuvered through the hallways to the undersized women's holding cells on the second floor. Officers wouldn't have been able to get her in and out of the building at all if she had been disabled.
A little later, they had to help a different individual into an ambulance. That meant the mechanic had to stop working, move the cruiser out of the way, and allow for access — which again required climbing a few steps.
There is an officer set up with a desk in one of the stairwells. Temperature regulation is hit or miss. There are 15 parking spaces for the 90 officers who work there. And all throughout the station, there are boxes of materials with no place to store them. The juvenile detention area doesn't comply with regulations.
When the station was built, there were no women officers so it wasn't until later a women's locker room was built and more recently expanded. More offices were shuffled around. More technology was brought in and again more reconfiguration was needed. The department is just about out of broom closets to turn into working spaces.
"All you have to do is take someone on a tour of this building and they can see firsthand that this isn't good for safety, it's not good for the community, it's not good for making sure the police can do the job they need to do," said state Sen. Adam Hinds.
The building is approaching its 80th anniversary. It was constructed in 1939 under emergency conditions because the last one was falling apart. Times were different there.
"The department had no full-time female employees. The department had no crime scene services section. There was no drug unit or gang unit. Special operations didn't exist. The department owned no computers, radios, printers, copiers, face machines, projectors, security monitors, or communications terminals," Police Chief Michael Wynn said.
The Allen Street building wasn't just a police station. It housed the Department of Welfare, Old Age Assistance, State Aid, and Soldiers' Relief. It was also a "comfort station." Eventually, those other agencies moved out as the Police Department expanded. There are now a total of 106 people working out the facility — 25 of whom are women.
For years the chief has been pushing for a new station. But it is going to be costly. The city's finance team has penciled in an estimation of $30 million — a cost that may be too steep for the city to bear. So the city has looked for help with the state and, on Tuesday, state officials turned for help from the federal government.
Wynn lead Farley-Bouvier, Hinds, and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey's State Director James Cantwell on a tour of the building pointing out to Cantwell just how out of date the building is for modern law enforcement.
"My role as a state director is to get around to all of the districts and learn where we can help on the federal level," Cantwell said. "It is clear there needs to be work here at the police station and the fact that the senator and the representative have funds in a bond bill to start the first phase is a great first step."
Farley-Bouvier said getting a new police station is going to require effort on all levels of government.
"When local, state, and federal government work together, that's when the best things happen. To have Jim know the real challenges we have, for example, the police station is important because in order for us to reach our goal of a new police station we're going to need all hands on deck," Farley-Bouvier said.
Cantwell isn't the only the federal official to have toured the station over the years. It has been a routine stop for federal and state officials over the years. During one stop, someone once chimed in saying it felt like they were in a 1940s gangster movie, which led it to be incorporated on a list of potential filming location.
And yet, assistance with funding has not happened as administrations, representatives, and senators have changed.
Farley-Bouvier, however, said things are a little different this time. She said building a new police station has continued to move the priority list and for the first time, the state was able to pass a bond bill to allocate $4 million for the needed design work to get the station shovel ready.
"It is the top or very near to the top of city priorities that have to get done. We are determined to make sure all of us are rowing in the same direction on this," Farley-Bouvier said.
Four years ago, the city awarded a $30,000 contract to Kaestle Boos for a feasibility study. That identified a number of locations — including Dalton Avenue, downtown, East Street, and at the William Stanley Business Park. The company determined that it should be around 38,000 square feet and drew up mock-up plans for what a building would look like to include everything the department needs.
The city followed that up by allocating $250,000 to move those drafts into an architectural design. But, last year, the city's finance team said the costs of the next phase was vastly more expensive than $250,000 and used that allocation as a piece of funding to buy a fire truck.
This year, Farley-Bouvier and Hinds were able to secure $4 million in a state capital bond bill but it will be up to the governor to release those funds. Farley-Bouvier added that Markey is someone who could help influence Gov. Charlie Baker to release those funds.
Construction will still need a lot more money. Cantwell had only recently been appointed to the job. He left his state representative for the 4th Plymouth District to take the job with Markey. Hinds said having Cantwell out to Pittsfield early could pay off in the future.
"It is an important moment to establish that relationship right from the beginning," Hinds said.
The police station was only one of the multiple stops Cantwell had in the Berkshires. He met with city officials on local issues, he took a tour of the William Stanley Business Park and Tyler Street, saw the decrepit Columbus Avenue Garage, met with environmental and economic development groups. He then went to North Adams to meet with the mayor there and then off to Williamstown.
One of the hot-button issues he came to discuss with officials is the pulling of the Springfield and Boston news stations from the Charter/Spectrum lineup. Cantwell said Markey's staff is preparing action to rectify that.
"It is still a fact-finding mission. Our legislative staff is finalizing a legislative response. Sen. Markey has been an outspoken critic of the way Chater has operated," Cantwell said.
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