LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A third-party inspector is expected to file a report on the condition of the current police station as town officials prepare to release a request for a feasibility study on the department's needs.
Town Manager Kelli Robbins said on Monday that a state building inspector was in town reviewing the renovation plans for the current station and is scheduling an inspection soon. The Board of Selectmen had asked the state to provide an independent assessment of the 151-year-old building following a report from the town's insurance company calling on the building to be vacated.
Selectman Robert Ericson, who had headed the renovation project to the current station, objected to a number of the issues cited in the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association report. The Board of Selectmen previously considered finding a temporary location for officers but also isn't convinced the current station needed to be evacuated immediately.
Robbins is asking for the state building inspector to provide his own opinion on the matter to help guide the town's short-term decisions.
"I would rather see the building inspector go up there, do his thing, and then ask questions later so nobody can say he was influenced by A or B," Robbins said.
Meanwhile, Robbins said she completed writing a request for qualifications to determine a long-term solution. The town has halted the renovation project as it reassesses what to do.
The request will ask for a contractor to determine what the department will need in a station now and into the future as well as examine the possibilities of saving the current building, building a new structure, or renovating one of the buildings at the former Vacation Village property.
The request does include all three options, which should serve as some relief to the Police Department that posted on Facebook on Friday asking for people to support having all three options reviewed.
"Rumor has it that some 'powers that be' want to only request an RFQ on the current Police Department, if that's done the community limits their options as well as takes the chance that the current PD won't be feasible and the town has wasted its money on the RFQ without having any other options," the department wrote on Facebook. "Unfortunately you need to reach out to the Selectboard before their next meeting."
The post was well shared throughout town and led to a petition being crafted calling on the town to do just that. Despite the rabble-rousing on Facebook over the weekend, Monday's meeting was calm and had not drawn any public comments or statements from the department or the union.
The Vacation Village plan, however, would be a larger project than just replacing the police station. The goal there would be to purchase all five buildings, use one for the station, one for a senior center, and rent the others. The Board of Selectmen is willing to sell a piece of property the town owns on Prospect Street to help offset the cost.
But, in the request for proposal, only one building would be looked at. Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers wants the other buildings to be assessed as well, saying he believes three of the buildings may not be usable at all. Sayers is concerned that the condition of those buildings could significantly increase the cost.
Robbins said that assessment should be done by a contractor later if the study determines the building there is viable for the Police Department. She said the assessment would determine which of the three options are the best and if that building proves to be so, then the development of the rest of the project would come later.
"Before it goes to the residents, the whole cost will be there ... when they choose, they will have all of the numbers," Robbins said.
The town manager said she has $25,000 for the assessment and expanding the scope, like Sayers suggested, would cost more. Robbins said there isn't a place left to pull additional funds from.
Ericson, however, remains steadfast that his plan for the current station will work and save a lot of money. He questioned why the town wouldn't just use that $25,000 to continue with the renovations, saying a study is a waste of money.
"We could just put more money into the police station and get it finished," Ericson said.
Building Inspector Rick Reid has a different opinion. Reid said the structure will never be suitable for a police station.
"We were putting good money into a bad building that point," Reid said. "The building doesn't justify putting thousands of dollars into it."
Chairman John Goerlach agreed with Ericson about spending money on a study. But, he also said that is required to get the funding, either loans or grants, for any project in the future.
"A feasibility study is money that is basically thrown away but unfortunately it is part of the process," Goerlach said.
Meanwhile, Ericson hasn't stopped with his plan, despite the board calling for the work to halt. Robbins said the town recently received a bill for re-engineering, which Ericson said was from the architect to address concerns regarding the bathroom and a changing area for women officers. But Ericson didn't have that authorization and the board isn't willing to pay the bill.
"You can't spend money you don't have. There was no authorization," Goerlach said.