The Board of Selectman’s endorsement of the 191 South Main Street location to be acquired for a new police station is one we can stand behind. The unanimous decision by the board at their June 26 meeting to approve the design concept and purchase of the former Taunton Press building and adjacent pieces of property jump-starts this long-delayed project.
Chief James Viadero pointed out to the selectmen at the June meeting that it had been a long road to get as far as the presentation that night. For too long, the police force has operated out of an inadequate facility.
When the Town Charter was revised in 1971 to allow the appointment of a police commission and a police department, the town’s population was under 17,000. In the late 1970s, 19 officers and a police chief moved into the current 3 Main Street facility, the former Lovell’s Farm Supply (Ruet-Sibley building) — a modest step up from the former headquarters in the lower level of Edmond Town Hall. But within two decades, the revamped Lovell’s space had proved to be sub-par for its assigned use.
The population has continued to grow, and the police department has swelled to a force of 45 officers, now serving under Chief Viadero. The recent decades also saw a leap in technology, demanding more space in increasingly crowded conditions. The men and women overseeing our safety deserve a space that accommodates modern technology and offers an environment conducive to carrying out their duties.
Other options for the new headquarters were considered; 191 South Main Street has presented as the most reasonable and — something that should appeal to all — most affordable option for upgrading our police department. No demolition, remediation, or restructuring of topography is required as with properties at Fairfield Hills. Nor would the 191 South Main Street site require temporary relocation of the police while construction is underway, which was a concern with the second-rated Pleasance property. A building with tech infrastructure that has been kept up to date makes good sense in expediting a process that has for too long been put aside.
The tens of millions of dollars for a police headquarters is huge. However, tripling the current 8,000 square foot space means that our police department will be able to operate as it should, with space to expand, acknowledging future growth for our population — and thus, our police force.
We hope that the future will also include a plan for 3 Main Street, though. To add another emptied building to our historic Main Street would be as much a crime as those the police will mitigate from their sparkling new headquarters a mile away.
The Board of Finance and Legislative Council will be next to weigh in on the selectman’s endorsement. If scrutiny of this proposal proves it to be the stellar option selectmen believe, voters will have the opportunity this fall to approve the boards’ endorsements, an action that would be beneficial to the community in the short term as well as the long term.