New Williamstown Police Station on Target for July Opening
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williamstown's town manager is happy to show off the Village Beautiful's new police station. But the best part is one that most residents probably never will see — and never hope to see.
"For me, this space is why we built the building," Jason Hoch said, showing off the area that will be the booking area and cells when the new facility opens this summer.
For those unfortunate enough to be "guests" of the Williamstown Police Department, the cells will be accessed through an interior door that opens into the department's new sally port. Starting in July, officers will be able to drive into the building into the port — like a garage — close the exterior door and escort detainees into the holding area.
"It provides an appropriate, safe area for people to be received into the building and processed," Hoch said. "No more leg shackles."
The shackles now are the best way for Williamstown's police to secure suspects when they exit police vehicles in the parking lot behind the station at town hall.
And instead of bringing detainees through public spaces on their way to the booking room, as is now the case, their route will be completely separated from any areas the public may access.
That route, incidentally, no longer will include a trek down a narrow staircase to the current station's subterranean cells — a potential hazard for intoxicated parties who sometimes are the ones heading for the holding areas.
The creation of a safe environment for intake, holding and transporting detainees is one of the main drivers of the town's $5 million project for a new station on Simonds Road.
Two years ago, Williamstown purchased the former Turner House for veterans on Route 7 when the nonprofit decided to close its doors.
The town renovated the interior of the former apartment house and built an addition on the back that is joined by staircases and an elevator. The new build includes features like the cells and sally port.
As work continued on the building's interior, Hoch led a tour of the 12,000-square-foot facility, which will offer functional spaces.
"This alone will speed things up," said Officer Mike Ziemba, who joined Hoch and Police Chief Kyle Johnson on Friday's building tour.
The new station also offers a few more creature comforts.
The former Turner House kitchen will replace the department's current facility, "two microwaves and a fridge," Johnson said with a laugh.
The dispatch area, where personnel are stuck for an entire shift, will have its own small bathroom attached.
"If patrol is really busy, they can't always come back to relieve the dispatcher so they can use the bathroom or take a break," Johnson explained.
Adequate showers and locker rooms mean that officers no longer will have to go home to clean up if they get into a messy situation during their shift.
And the bottom floor of the former Turner House will have a lounge area for those officers who need to recharge when off-duty.
"If someone gets called in for a bad storm and then gets done but they have to start their shift in a couple of hours, they can come in here and relax," Ziemba said.
Not all the added efficiencies are inside the building. Behind the new station is a communications tower that doubles the department's current capacity. And the parking lot will have a car port with room for six vehicles — cutting back on the need to keep vehicles running to stay available at a moment's notice during winter weather events.
Williamstown officials knew for years that it needed to create a safe workable environment. The availability of the Turner House provided part of the solution. The impending retirement of debts in the town's capital budget allowed Hoch to create a funding plan that pays off the station without adding to the town's property tax rate.
In July, Hoch hopes to start moving the department north from its cramped, outdated digs in Town Hall, which itself occupies a former fraternity house acquired by the town in 1966.
Hoch was quick Friday to credit the town's architect from Caolo Bieniek and Associates, project manager Greg Devlin of New Bedford's Architectural Consulting Group and John Salvini of Pittsfield general contractor Salco for a smooth project that has had only minor adjustments from start to finish despite the fact that half of the new station is a refurbished group home.
"Change orders related to the old building were $10,000 or less," Hoch said. "That is unbelievable. Less than 1 percent of the total project cost was change orders.
"We've tried to do a good job of threading the needle of delivering a building we can be proud of as a community in a cost-effective way. And by repurposing an existing building, right off the bat, we figured we'd save in the neighborhood of $1 million to $1.5 million to deliver what the [public safety building] committee had recommended."
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