BURLINGTON - Putting off a new Police Station for another decade likely is a bad idea.
The Burlington Police Department’s headquarters has existed at 45 Center St. for much of the last 40+ years in a structure that was built in the 1890s.
Burlington Police Chief Thomas Browne seized an opportunity to speak to the Select Board this past Monday night, where he expounded on the concerning current condition of the Police Station.
“Since [former Police Chief Michael Kent] began to push for a new building almost immediately upon his hiring in March 2010, the building has continued to show signs of age and deterioration, and the costs associated with making some of the repairs are high,” explained Chief Browne. “We are creeping up to this being a need, rather than a want.”
Throughout the age-old building, there is mold, mildew and water damage that has rendered portions of the station unsatisfactory, unsafe, and borderline unusable. This includes the cell block area and IT infrastructure.
“We have water in our light balusters with flooding from the ceiling,” remarked Chief Browne. “Our IT room with all that equipment is always at-risk.”
There are many parts of the building that have started to crack and separate beyond normal settling. The “new” area of the station built in 1990-1992 was constructed largely of cement blocks and many of these areas are showing cracks through the blocks, not necessarily along seams as might be expected. The stairwells are “dangerously” out of code, with those using them always at risk of tripping due to the stairs being crooked and too steep.
The building’s security infrastructure is extremely outdated in comparison to today’s standard police stations. Some windows are ground-level and not secure, while the camera systems on the building are unable to catch all angles outside the building.
It is clear the Select Board agrees with Chief Browne regarding the immediate need to start the process of having a new Police Station built within five or six years. Continuing with a patchwork approach isn’t going to be sustainable financially or structurally.
“We are putting good money after bad, at this point,” professed Chief Browne. “I am here to hopefully get the ball rolling on this so a new Police Station can be built in no longer than seven years from now”
Select Board Vice Chair Nicholas Priest voiced concerns about the unhealthy environment of the building for those inside.
“Water damage compromises the health and safety for our police force, as well as the evidence and IT rooms,” declared Priest. “I fully support a new Police Station.”
Select Board member Robert Hogan restated his sentiment over the years that this “should have been done years ago” and “the last thing we want is to be having this same discussion next year.”
The rest of the Select Board expressed similar commentary, essentially avowing it is “time to get the ball rolling” and “put this into the town’s Bonding Schedule” for large financial projects, such as a new Police Station.
Town Administrator Paul Sagarino confirmed he will work with Ways & Means to develop a Bonding Schedule for this project.
“This project has certainly moved up the list and the affordability is more suitable for our taxpayers who won’t be drastically impacted financially from a new Police Station,” assured Sagarino.
Chief Browne mentioned a new Police Station currently costs approximately $30 million.