Shrewsbury Town Meeting members approve $42 million for new police complex

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Measure will now be on November ballot

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

A rendering of the proposed police and municipal campus.
Photo/submitted

Shrewsbury –Town Meeting representatives overwhelmingly voted Sept. 29 in favor of advancing a ballot question to the Nov. 3 general election for a $42 million debt exclusion to fund a new police station and public safety radio system.

Addressing the members at a Special Town Meeting held at Shrewsbury High School, Police Chief Kevin E. Anderson said that the current police building, which was built in 1971, had significantly outlived its intended lifetime.

Among its many challenges he noted included a lobby with people overlapping, e.g., coming in for reports, getting a license to carry permit, sex offenders registering and releasing prisoners.

Firefighter Joseph Milosz explained that the existing public safety radio system, installed in the 1990s was technology outdated, and replacement parts cannot be procured.

One of the primary challenges is inadequate coverage making communication between officers and firefighters difficult and often unsafe and can prove deadly in an EMS emergency.

Former Selectman Henry Fitzgerald, Precinct 6, noted that now is an advantageous time to proceed because of exceptionally low interest rates.

Gwen Molina, Precinct 1, inquired about the cost of renovating the building as opposed to building a new station.

Matt Salad, architect with Tecton Architects responded that they didn’t pursue any actual costs because the Building Committee had determined that the integrity of the building didn’t merit the investigation and the building was in such a state of repair that it was more cost effective to build a new station without disturbing the operations of the police department.

“We believe it is a critical need for public safety and that it can’t wait anymore,” stated Beth Casavant, Board chair and strategist with the Community Supporters for Public Safety Ballot Question Committee, in a phone call prior to Town Meeting.

When asked what surprised her the most about the current building, she replied: “There is so much; I think the thing that really strikes me is how the building no longer meets the needs of the department, and hasn’t for probably 25 years.”

Most concerning is the way important records and evidence are being stored without temperature controls because space is not available.

“There is one restroom for 51 male employees….and there is no shower so if they had to shower off after some sort of hazardous materials incident or they are in an accident and had blood on them, they cannot,” she remarked. “The working conditions are not conducive to getting their job done.

“The town does a great job in long range planning for capital needs,” remarked Michael Hale, who chairs the committee, in a phone call after the meeting. “The track record is indicative of that fact given that we are about to complete our fourth brand new school in the last 25 years.”

In that timeframe, two new fire stations, a senior center, renovations to the Library and Town Hall also were completed.

“All the while the public safety people sat on the sidelines and waited their turn,” Hale reflected.

“And their turn is now, and I think that the condition of the building speaks for itself.”

Voters will next decide during the Nov. 3 election if the measure should go forward.