BERLIN - The Police Commission is exploring the feasibilty of expanding the police department to the current Board of Education offices.
Commission Chairman Bob Peters told The Herald Thursday he would be signing a letter to be sent to acting Town Manager Jack Healy requesting the Public Building Commission conduct a study.
The idea has been discussed for years, Peters said. The two entities split the bottom floor of Town Hall, with town offices occupying the main floor above.
According to Peters, the current facility was built in 1974, when the department had 18 officers, and lacks space for the 42 officers the department has now.
Need for locker room space is one of the reasons for the request, said Peters. Another is the need for more room to conduct interviews.
“We understand the financial state the town is in,” said Peters, acknowledging that relocating to a new police station is unlikely.
A referendum on a new $21 million police station failed in 2014 after the town had already purchased 903 and 913 Farmington Ave. for the station. The lots are now being looked at as part of transit-oriented development proposals.
A scaled-back $16 million version of the plan was then shot down by the council, purely on budget reasons, Mayor Mark Kaczynski said, since the town had begun an $84 million high school renovation project.
Kaczysnki expressed support for the study on Thursday, saying the move would give the department almost the same square footage as would a new police station.
“Let’s get all the data, let’s get all the numbers,” said Kaczysnki.
“If adequate space for the Board of Ed can be found elsewhere, then we’re open to considering options,” said School Superintendent Brian Benigni.
Relocating the school board to new office rooms at the high school, or to the Pistol Creek building on Spruce Brook Road, have been discussed previously..
Such moves may not be ideal for the school board initially, Benigni said, since an entrance and exit to the offices at the high school aren’t easily accessible and the Pistol Creek building needs to be updated.
School Board President Matthew Tencza echoed Benigni, adding, “I’m hopeful for cooperative discussions,” he said.
Brian Pskowski, chairman of the Public Building Commission, said he would take whatever direction the council gives.
The letter comes after the Town Council put on hold a vote on design plans that would replace barred cell doors with Plexiglas doors. The move would reduce overtime costs the department has spent since an attempted suicide using the bars in 2016.
The $150,000 project is expected to be discussed at the next council meeting on Feb. 6, which may also see discussion of the letter, Kaczynski said.
Corporation Counsel Jeffrey Donofrio did not return requests for comment on which body has the final say on whether the school board can stay or must move.
Kaczysnki said any decision would be made in conjunction with any involved parties.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.