Selectman Robert Ericson defended himself against the issues cited by the insurance company and by the police officers' union with the police station.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen are looking into potentially purchasing the former Vacation Village property for a police station and senior center.
The Route 7 property may be the way to address the condition of the police station, which grew in urgency after the town's insurance company called for it to be vacated.
Town officials toured the buildings on the 5.1-acre site and estimated they would need some $23,000 worth of work. But the Selectmen say there is enough room for a police station and senior center, and to hold special events like town meetings in the 6,270 square-foot main building.
The property with all five buildings that had been used as offices and sales is currently on the market for $750,000. However, Chairman John Goerlach suggested that the town could sell property it had previously purchased on Prospect Street for a senior center to help make up the difference and that potential rental income could come from office space there.
The board does have a concern about potential water damage in two of the buildings but said overall the largest of the five buildings are in good condition. Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers wants a thorough inspection done on the property.
Selectman Robert Ericson thinks the largest building might be too big for a senior center. He said the programs tend to have a big influx of people at first but eventually participation drops. Ericson said he would rather see the town reach a partnership with the city of Pittsfield or the town of Dalton to get a bigger number of participants and thus a more robust set of programs.
"I think it is a mistake to put the senior center at Vacation Village," Ericson said.
Town Manager Kelli Robbins countered by saying the participation levels are more linked to the operations of the center and who is at the helm. She said the aging population is growing so there will be even more demand for senior programming.
"That has a lot to do with the programming and direction of how the center is being run," Robbins said.
At the same time, the town is also considering other options to address the problems at the police station. The town is looking to price out the costs to fully renovate the current building or to construct a brand new one on that Prospect Street property. Robbins said there are U.S. Department of Agriculture loans available for any of those options.
"The loan can be used to remodel an existing building, to purchase a new building, to construct a new building, so we have a lot of options," Robbins said.
Goerlach said he'd like to bring the question to the special town meeting first to see which way the residents want to go. But he doesn't want the final decision made until the annual town meeting when more people attend.
In the meantime, officers are willing to stay a bit longer in the current station. Chief Timothy Sorrell said he is having a state building inspector take a look at it and identifying the immediate issues that need to be addressed. He said if those things can be fixed enough to appease the insurance company, the officers can stay there for some time more but would still like a long-term solution.
The town has been unable to find a temporary home for the police force.
Ericson has been working on renovating the current station but was absent from the last meeting at which the insurance company's recommendations were discussed. Ericson took time on Monday to defend himself and address some of the issues cited by the officers' union and the insurance company.
A damaged door, for instance, was cited by the insurance company. Ericson explained that the plan was to replace that door in the spring because the damage is caused by frost heaving underneath it. He said in the spring he planned to replace the pad by the door and then fix the door so the same issue doesn't happen again.
The union also cited concerns with the new floor at the station. The union said Ericson allegedly had an issue with a damp mop being left on the floor causing damage. The union questioned why he'd install a floor that would be easily damaged by the snow and water that officers track into the building.
Ericson, however, said his concern was about the commercial solvent used when washing the vehicles. He said while there are five coats of wax on the floor to seal it, nothing is impenetrable.
"Why take a chance at damaging a new floor rather than putting the mop back in the bucket?" Ericson said.
When it comes to holes in the building, Ericson said one was a waterline to the old bathroom, one was a drain from the garage area, and the third was a drain to the septic system. He said all three of those could be filled in and sealed.
The lack of space for woman officers to change has constantly been cited. Ericson said he is creating a refurbished locker room and a latch will provide the privacy any officer would need. He added that most of the officers come to work in uniform rather than changing on site.
The insurance company cited a substitution of materials. Particularly the concern there was that Ericson used packing peanuts for insulation. Ericson said using that material was approved by the engineers.
The retired engineer said the peanuts are a dampener. He said with the way the walls are constructed, fiberglass insulation wouldn't be feasible because it would get wet and eventually moldy. He said the peanuts reduces the airflow somewhat.
"It is enough to slow it down so you don't get the windstorm," Ericson said.
He also explained how he added foam for insulation in the floor and leveled it. He said raising the flooring will help alleviate accessibility issues with steps inside the building. He added that the deterioration of bricks in the south corner was of concern but one he addressed.
And finally, he said he sent the plans to the insurance company that were signed off on by an engineer. The insurance company cited the town for not having those plans.
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