As Randolph Mulls Firehouse, Police HQ Still Has Hurdles

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Front Page / Sep. 8, 2016 9:22am EDT

Sticker Shock Has Committee Taking Second Look at Plan
By M. D. Drysdale


The Randolph selectboard announced in January its selection of the former Singer Eye Center as its top choice for the new home of the Randolph Police Department. (Herald File / Tim Calabro) The Randolph selectboard announced in January its selection of the former Singer Eye Center as its top choice for the new home of the Randolph Police Department. (Herald File / Tim Calabro) Even as the construction of a new firehouse in Randolph Village runs into delays, a committee is moving ahead with plans to develop a new police station.

The Randolph police station did not burn down, but the firehouse conflagration brought new attention to the inadequacies of the current police headquarters across from the Post Office.

The old wood-frame building must accommodate a police department that includes six full-time officers and three part-timers, plus one town cruiser.

One small office houses desks and file space to accommodate three police officers while another one, even smaller, houses two, including Sgt. Loretta Stalnaker. Only Chief James Krakowiecki has an office to himself, at the east end of the building.

The arrangement is also considered unsafe, as there is no space where suspects can be isolated from their victims or police officers. The only restraint is a set of handcuffs nailed to a wall, to which suspects could be attached.

Therefore, a Police Station Committee was formed to research the alternatives, with the strong support of Town Manager Mel Adams.

Chaired by Stalnaker, the committee also includes Chief Krakowiecki, former selectboard member Dennis Brown, officer Sam Lambert, Bill Morgan, and Mike Marshall.

Alternatives

Believing that renovation of the current location was unrealistic, the committee concentrated on studying several other sites. The first alternative considered was to combine with the fire department in a building to serve both of them. That turned out to be too expensive, however.

Since then, the committee has identified its favored choice as the former chapel set back from the road across Route 12 from Gifford Medical Center. It was available for $275,000.

The existing building would provide the space needed for the officers. Adding an attached garage would provide a “sally port” for security that the current police office lacks. The sally port is a drive-in garage that also includes processing space for arrested suspects, next to, but not accessible to, the police desks in the main building. The principle, Stalnaker explained, is that a squad car carrying a suspect could drive into the garage structure and the suspect could be interviewed there in isolation.

This is an important aspect of security, she said. Once delivered to the sally port, the suspect would have no opportunity to harass or harm witnesses or the officers in the police station itself.

The garage, she said, would not be a visual distraction from Main Street, as it would be behind the current building.

The firm of D.E.W. Construction of Williston was hired to draw up plans for the needed renovations.

First Report

At its meeting August 10, the study committee received its report and found itself facing two possible obstacles.

First, the projected cost of construction came in higher than expected at $410,000, making the total project cost $685,000.

Second, Randolph voters were already showing signs of sticker shock. A proposed bond issue of $2.4 million for the firehouse was approved by voters, but the vote, at 468-434 was much closer than expected. (A petition has now been filed asking for a re-vote on the firehouse bond; see separate story.)

Thus, the prospect of asking for approval of another bond issue was suddenly looking more difficult than expected.

In response to these concerns, Town Manager Adams asked the committee to review the current building to see if it is possible to renovate it. (Adams has been publicly reluctant to go this route because of the age, code violations, and inadequate space at the current police station.)

Various committee members also asked the engineers for more information on other aspects of the project and suggested ways to cut costs.

The board hopes for a final proposal closer to $600,000, including purchase, Stalnaker said.

D.E.W. Construction will present another proposal, including the new study of the existing building, at the committee’s next meeting this coming Monday, Sept. 12 from 4-6 p.m.

The proposal will then go to a public hearing. The bond vote itself will be held on Election Day, November 8. Sharing the ballot with the Presidential election ensures a higher turnout than bond issues usually get.

In the meantime, Stalnaker said, the police department will be setting up an open house or perhaps several of them at the current offices, inviting townspeople to see how cramped the current quarters are.

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