BERLIN - Replacement of barred jail cell doors at the Berlin police station took a step forward Tuesday.
The Town Council approved waiving bidding procedures to enter into an agreement with Bismark Construction Co., of Milford, to design and build the new doors for not more than $30,000.
The bidding procedure was waived because there are only two companies in the U.S. that manufacture the doors, which will be made of Plexiglas.
Since Berlin is replacing only four doors, the town will be looking to create a bid package with the Trumbull and Orange police departments, which are working to have eight and seven cell doors replaced, respectively.
“It isn’t going to go away until we make changes,” said Deputy Chief Chris Ciuci about the issue of suicide attempts using barred cell doors.
According to Police Chief John Klett, the department has spent $48,000 in overtime costs between September 2016 and January 2018 to have an officer watch a prisoner in one of the holding cells.
In September 2016, a prisoner attempted to kill himself by tying his long-sleeve shirt around his neck and the bars, before an officer saw him on camera and rushed in to save him.
Ciuci said Monday an officer has to be pulled off the street to provide the monitoring if a detainee tests positive for a suicide watch. If suicide isn’t believed likely, an officer will make less frequent checks.
Councilor JoAnn Angelico-Stetson said replacing the doors would not only help save lives, but also reduce the liability of the town in case of a suicide attempt.
Replacing the doors was a “no-brainer,” said Councilor Karen Pagliaro, who said she toured the building two weeks ago.
Councilor Brenden Luddy abstained from the vote since his employer, The MacKenzie Co., has work contracts with Bismark Construction Co., but said he was supportive of the project.
Construction of the doors will begin after the council approves the project and the Board of Finance appropriates the funds for it, once the plans come back in, said Mayor Mark Kaczynski.
“We want our officers out on the street,” said Kaczynski, while agreeing with Angelico-Stetson’s point.
He said the project cost should be “reasonable,” considering the estimate of the Trumbull project’s cost is $250,000.
Acting Town Manager Jack Healy said the department already has funds for the project available in the budget.
Following, the council referred a statement of need from the police commission to the public building commission sent to conduct feasibility/cost study on expanding the department into the neighboring Board of Education offices.
The statement of need calls for increased space for an evidence room, interview rooms and more.
Board of Education President Matt Tencza previously said the board was open to relocating their offices if other suitable office space could be found.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.