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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Personal items belonging to a person in custody at the police station in Brookline are piled on the floor while they're being processed. People brought to the station in custody stand on the red line on the floor facing the wall during part of their processing in the cramped spaces in the basement of the Daniels Academy Building.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    A storage closet at the Brookline Police Department.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Quarters are tight at the Brookline Police Department. The town is considering expanding the safety complex in town to accomodate the department and free basement space in the Daniels Academy Building for other town use.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voters in the town of Brookline will consider adding on to the safety complex in town to accomodate the police department, which is currently occupying basement space in the Daniels Academy Building.
Monday, February 13, 2012

Brookline panel is proposing scaled-down version of safety complex

BROOKLINE – A volunteer group is pushing for the completion of the town’s safety complex and bent on convincing residents that a $1.4 million expenditure now could save tax dollars later.

“The idea sounds crazy in this economy,” said facilities committee Chairman Peter Cook, head of a group charged by the Board of Selectmen to come up with a cost-effective and practical plan. “But building costs are at their lowest, and two or three bonds are expiring.”

Selectmen directed the committee to come up with a plan that kept total town bonding at 2010 levels, and they did.

They’re now beginning to promote the warrant article, emphasizing the positives.

“The drivers are low cost and the expiration of the other bonds,” Cook said.

In 2003, town voters approved spending to build the ambulance service building, occupied by the service since 2004. A proposal to complete the safety complex by adding a new police station was rejected by voters in 2008.

The current proposal, which in addition to a police station includes a fire sprinkler system and a 40-person public meeting space, has a price tag that is $350,000 less than the one attached to the 2008 plan.

It also has the unanimous support of the Board of Selectmen.

“It’s a good value for the town and badly needed for the future of the town,” said Selectman Darrell Philpot. “We’re retiring some debt, so the initial net impact for the first year will be $22 on a $300,000 home.”

Taxpayers are likely to be tight-fisted in March when they go to the polls to make decisions on money warrant articles.

But selectmen’s Chairman Tad Putney pointed out that the building completion would not only reduce Police Department liabilities, based on inadequate space and lack of privacy, but also would provide a place for the town offices to expand.

“They reduced the footprint by 20 percent,” Putney said, referring to the scaled-down version the committee is proposing.

Currently, town offices are cramped, and officials said as the town grows, the need for more space inside Town Hall will also increase. Indeed, another warrant article that will appear on the March ballot asks voters if they want to hire a town administrator to oversee the town’s daily operations.

Selectmen in recent months have expressed frustration over the mounting paperwork put before them, and the lack of time they have to thoroughly vet what comes in.

“We’ve spoken to the Brookline police officers, and they say, ‘Anything would be better than what we have now,’” said Cook, the facilities committee chairman. “We’re talking about building a facility that the town needs now and will need 40, 50, 60 years from now.”

Cook said the revised plans for the proposed completion of the safety complex are “adequate, but with no extra room.”

“We cut back, left, right, and center,” he said.

Approval of the warrant article, he added, isn’t a referendum on the town’s Police Department, which has been embroiled in a number of controversies over the past year stemming from the police chief’s firing of a longtime sergeant and acting chief soon after taking over.

“It’s been a balancing act,” Cook said, explaining why the facilities committee did not include the town’s police chief or local police officers as members. “The Police Department will have changed a few times” before the building outlives its usefulness.

Cook said his committee is inviting taxpayers to view its website, to learn more about the proposed project, including design details and legal issues, such as the “sight and sound” separation between juvenile and adult offenders, mandated by state law but not available in the current police station. The committee also plans to distribute an informational flier that contains many of the details available on the website.

“The current police department is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Cook said.

Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24 or