GLOCESTER – The town of Glocester is growing and so is the need for a bigger, better safety complex, officials say. What that will be, and where it will be located, is yet to be determined, however.
At the recent Town Council meeting Glocester Police Chief Joseph DelPrete explained that the department has basically outgrown its current location at 162 Chopmist Hill Road. He submitted a needs assessment outlining the existing problems at the station that included water and mold problems with the existing garage and a lack of space for necessary technical equipment, proper record storage, and other needs, including a revamped dispatch center.
The choice now before the council is whether to renovate the existing building or build a new safety complex near the Glocester Memorial Park location on Route 44/Adelaide Road, nearer to the center of town. Renovating the existing building, said DelPrete, would require extensive overhauls, some of which have been put on hold until a decision has been made.
“I pumped the brakes on a lot of projects because I am waiting for a decision on this,” he said.
DelPrete offered a list of improvements needed including repointing bricks, replacing sidewalks, installing new drainage to prevent water damage and security fencing, and remodeling of existing rooms in the building for proper firearm storage, record keeping and evidence. The facility was built in 1989.
“We’re maxed out there,” said DelPrete. “We’re just overgrown with technology as well. That’s one of the most important things. We have a lot of technology in the dispatch room, and it shouldn’t be in there. It’s a good building, as is, but it needs a lot of work to get it up to speed. We’re projecting for the future of the police department and the town.”
DelPrete provided a preliminary outline of potential improvements to meet the needs of the department, along with a potential design to construct the new facility. To renovate the current facility and add 8,300 square feet, it would cost approximately $7,670,000, according to estimates. The cost of a new facility was estimated at $8,875,000. However, the chief said that adding in the cost for trailers while the old facility is being renovated would cost close to $500,000. He noted that if you add to that the potential for selling the old building for commercial use, the difference becomes potentially less. DelPrete explained that the town is in the running to receive close to $1,490,00 in grants that would help offset costs, with the potential for other grants down the road as well.
“We have a perfect site on Adelaide Road,” he told NRI NOW in a later interview.
Council Vice President Stephen Arnold said the difference between the two potential projects seemed like, “a wash,” when looking at overall costs.
“I think it is a better investment to start from scratch,” said Arnold, adding that at the current location, there is little room to expand on the property, whereas at the Adelaide Road location there is room to expand in the future, should that be necessary for whatever reasons. It would also avoid renting trailers temporarily and spending funds on other temporary facilities while renovations are taking place, he said.
The new potential location is 10 acres, compared to an acre and a half at the current station. Arnold also added that the town’s current bonds are about to be paid off in the next couple of years, which would help lower the impact of any new bonds.
“It’s a different town, different world than 30 years ago,” said Councilor Walter Steere. “The important point to remember is that building is tired. If we don’t do anything, we’re going to end up spending a lot more money in the future.”
Steere added that making improvements on the current location may just lead to having to revisit improvements again in another 10 years.
“We have to do something,” Steere added. “Basically, what the chief and his team have done is put together a package we need to look at. Kind of like football, right? He kicked it off to us. We just received the ball. First and 10. What are we going to do next? There’s a lot of things we need to think about.”
The council agreed, adding that there should be a great deal of community involvement in making the various decisions down the road, from location, to amount spent and more. That starts with putting together a committee made up of a variety of community members.
“There have been a lot of employee hours put into this,” said DelPrete. “Now it’s time to act.”
Councilors noted that time is of the essence to avoid rising loan percentages and construction costs. Additionally, current grants have time limits attached. Steere added that the council would have to decide on a building committee, a project manager, how a bond would effect the budget and other considerations.
Escalating costs have changed, agreed Arnold. Talking to a builder recently, said Arnold, he was told the escalator used to be five percent. Now it is closer to 11 percent.
“That’s a real concern,” said Arnold. “You can’t run out of money three quarters of the way done.”
“It’s time to do something,” said Steere. “How are we going to approach this? What kind of public hearings are we going to have, how do we engage the public on this to get them more involved?”
In addition to forming a committee the project will involve a bond referendum to go before Glocester voters.
Town Solicitor David Igliozzi said in order to get the proposal on the ballot for 2024, the council should have the legislation authorizing the ballot question by January, and no later than June of 2024. The actual cost after public forums and, finally, the creation of an architectural plan could then be determined, he added. Igliozzi said he would draw up a resolution for the next council meeting to establish a committee for the project, adding he would leave it up to the council to decide how many members, including both town officials and community members, and what their duties will be.
“You basically have to get that committee up and running,” said Igliozzi.