Residents express support for new police station at meeting in Glocester

A small crowd of interested residents turned out for the special meeting explaining the pros and cons of both sites for either renovating or constructing a new facility. Mark Saccocio of Saccocio and Associates Architects presents the plans, at right. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin.

GLOCESTER – Residents weighed in on the new proposed police station plans at a special meeting Wednesday, March 6. No one opposed it. Those who spoke in front of those assembled to hear the proposals agreed that constructing a new building at the Adelaide Road site seemed to be in the town’s and the police department’s best interest moving forward.

Among the supporters was retired former police captain David LaPlante who recalled moving into the current building when it was new in 1990. Previously, the station was located in the basement of the Manton Public Library in the center of Chepachet on Putnam Pike, where prisoners were held in what he described as a, “plywood box.” The construction of a new building, he said, is a necessity.

“People need to learn why this plan is necessary,” said LaPlante.

LaPlante noted that certain items in the evidence room, for example, have to be kept there almost indefinitely. Other evidence has to be secure, safely guarded and protected from not only people, but from possible contamination. Cramped quarters contribute to losing evidence or simply making it difficult to store evidence where it can be located and checked.

“It’s a dangerous situation,” LaPlante said. “Especially with drugs.”

When the department first moved into the building, he explained, it seemed spacious, but that soon changed. The department grew, laws changed, and the need for more room for required and necessary technology increased.

Room for technology, said Police Chief Joseph DelPrete, is currently a major problem at the existing facility, along with other concerns, including storage.

Glocester Police Chief Joseph DelPrete explains the existing problems at the current location of the police station as Mark Saccocio of Saccocio and Associates Architects looks on. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin.

“We have 30,000 records we have to manage,” said DelPrete. “No place for evidence. Records all over the place. Normally, that’s in the police station, not locked up in another location.”

The chief enumerated a list of problems at the current facility, including mold, heat and cooling problems that impact personnel and computer equipment, water issues, and simply a lack of space to hold prisoners or detainees. At one point confiscated marijuana could be smelled throughout the building, he said, due to poor ventilation.

The increase of police officers was also a major concern. Currently, there are 17 officers, four short of what is suggested by the FBI for Glocester’s 11,000 population. While Glocester is considered one of the safest towns in the state, DelPrete said the department recorded an increase of 2,500 calls last year. That included 12 DUIs during a four week period. Arrests showed an increase of 50 and major crimes have doubled.

“The activity has gone up,” he said.

Locker rooms can only accommodate 10 people, and there is only one bathroom, he added. Although the department has monitors that oversee elementary school grounds for safety, some have to be placed on desks instead of walls because there is no room. The high school grounds cannot be included because of a lack of space. With the addition of the Emergency Operation Center, space is at a premium, said the chief.

“A lot of that square footage is EOC,” said DelPrete. “A lot of that square footage is storage. We don’t want a Taj Mahal. We want efficient space.”

In his presentation comparing renovations at the current location on 162 Chopmist Hill Road to a new facility near Adelaide Road, Mark Saccocio of Saccocio and Associates Architects of Cranston explained that either facility would work, but no more additions could be constructed after proposed renovations were made at the current site. If more room were to be needed in the future, a new location would have to be found. Building a new facility at Adelaide on town owned land, by comparison, would provide plenty of room for additions in the future. The new facility also would provide more efficient use of space, bigger corridors and better organization in separating semi-public, police and secure areas in the building, Saccocio said, noting that the current building with renovations could still work, however.

“This still works, it’s just less than ideal,” said Saccocio. “It’s not an either/or. That’s really not the decision. Both stations work, but (new construction) works better. It’s really about the long term piece.”

The proposed new station near Adelaide Road, right, versus the renovation of the current station at 162 Chopmist Hill Road. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

Resident Walter Steere Jr. asked if the new facility could be a two story building to maybe save money. Since the new location is on an incline, the basement could be a walk out. Saccocio said it was a good idea and can be looked into. When asked about a second story at the present location, Saccocio said it would be costly, requiring a special elevator and other structural changes.

In terms of construction costs, Saccocio said a new station would cost approximately $17,348,393. Renovations at the current station were estimated at $15,046,570, an approximate $2.3 million difference. When asked about additional expenses at the current location to relocate police personnel temporarily, he said it could be done, but that it was a difficult transition to say the least. Some parts of the building would be inaccessible at times, while others would be cramped and/or uncomfortable. In instances where his company has dealt with this situation, he said, it has been less than convenient or easy.

“It is a year of hell,” said Saccocio. “It’s disruptive for sure. There are times when they’ll be reaching out to Smithfield and other towns for housing prisoners and legal aid kind of situations, where every time parts of the station aren’t accessible.”

If a new building is constructed, there won’t be any significant transition, he added.

Costs would be partly offset by current grants and expected grants. Currently, grants already total $490,000 from a Community Oriented Policing Services grant, along with $1 million from Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. The COPS grant has to be spent before the end of the year, while the FEMA grant has a two year limit. There is also the possibility of up to $5 million from a state-funded grant since the new station would include a regional emergency operations center. That grant is due to be awarded this month.

“We have a chance to get up to $5 million only because of the Emergency Operations Center,” said Jerry Mosca, EMA director. “We would be the only and largest emergency operations center in northwest RI. The state likes that. We would become the nexus for major response for natural disasters.”

That would move Glocester and surrounding towns up the ladder in terms of receiving help during a disaster.

“We’re always at the end of the line,” Mosca said. “This puts us in the forefront. We’re hoping if we get this grant, it will be on the high end.”

Resident George (Buster) Steere asked about selling the current facility after the station was relocated. Council President William Worthy responded that it is a consideration, which needed to be explored in terms of zoning and other issues. The facility has a recently updated well and septic. It could possibly be used as a daycare, said Worthy, since there are multiple rooms. That would help offset the cost of the new facility as well.

“You’ve got a pristine piece of property on Route 44,” said Saccocio. “You have plenty of room for expansion. You have some breathing room that’s going to last you for the foreseeable future in that space. There’s better utilization of the building. There’s a little less crossover of the public/private that we talked about. It’s a little easier handling the prisoners. It’s a little easier handling the general public, as well. It’s really the forward thinking that you might want to do as to the pros and cons. It’s as simple as that. It’s breathing room versus no breathing room.”

Consideration for more discussion and/or approving a site is on the council’s agenda at their meeting on Thursday, March 7.

“This has to be contemplated, and think about the pros and cons,” Saccocio added. “At the end of the day, I don’t think there is a right or wrong decision. It’s one of those difficult decisions.”

Editor’s note: An original version of this article credited comments made by Walter Steere Jr. to Councilor Walter Steere and has been corrected. We apologize for the error.

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