PITTSFIELD -- Efforts to secure a new city police station will take a milestone step with a feasibility study of building options and costs.
The city is advertising for vendor proposals for the study, which was budgeted at up to $30,000. The proposals must be submitted to the Purchasing Department by Oct. 3.
"This is a preliminary step, but a concrete one," Police Chief Michael J. Wynn said Thursday. "It is the first financial commitment the city has made for this process, so it is important."
The PPD has been struggling to operate within a cramped, 74-year-old police station on Allen Street that has been identified for replacement for a number of years. At present, there are no apparent federal or state grant sources to cover the multimillion dollar cost of a modern police facility, but officials last year began building support, lobbying lawmakers and planning for such a project.
Wynn said the feasibility study would address the department's needs, the costs of construction, as well as the cost of building on city-owned land or on a privately owned site.
Options to be considered, he said, would be a new police station or a combination public safety facility with police, the fire department and emergency management operations. Potential sites in the city also will be reviewed.
He said the length and exact parameters of the feasibility study would be worked out in the eventual contract with the vendor.
"This is really a huge step," said Katie Roucher, a member of the Police Advisory Committee. "It's awesome. This is something that is so badly needed."
One of the chief's goals in reviving the citizen-led advisory committee was to help build support for a new police station, Roucher said. The group has prepared a packet detailing problems with the current headquarters and sent it to state and federal legislators and other officials.
"This really gets the ball rolling," she said. "We will stay on the people in Washington and see what happens."
Wynn, Bianchi and Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler led U.S. Sen. Edward Markey on a tour of the station in late August and previously have discussed its condition with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.
Problems cited in the 39 Allen St. structure include narrow hallways, a lack of space for the size of the force and for modern police equipment and procedures; a prisoner cell block the chief has said he fears might one day fail its annual inspection.
There also are Americans with Disabilities Act access issues and a lack of accommodations for female officers, which were not planned for when the building was constructed. There also is insufficient space to privately interview victims of crime or anyone being questioned or detained, Wynn has said.
During the recent tour, Markey said he felt he was in a time warp and back in a late 1930s police station.
The police department in 1939 had 60 officers, five reserves, a matron and no female officers, according to statistics supplied by the chief. It has 117 police and civilian employees today.
The garage and areas around the station also are outmoded, police officials have said. There now are 40 police vehicles, compared to 14 in 1939.
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