New Williamstown police station on schedule for July opening

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WILLIAMSTOWN — The final push is on to bring the construction of a new police station to a close and with everything on schedule, a mid-July opening is just around the corner.

Town Manager Jason Hoch said the $5.25 million project has been a smooth ride ever since construction began in June largely due to the competency and professionalism of the team of contractors, architects and project managers.

"The process has been trending so well that we were able to make better choices along the way," Hoch said. "We're right where we need to be."

The new 12,000-square-foot structure is really only half new. It was built around the former Turner House, a shelter for homeless veterans that closed a few years ago. The town bought it for $300,000 in 2017. Hoch noted that the town could have built an entirely new structure, but it would have cost about $1 million more than it would to convert Turner House.

The project included an addition at the rear of the existing building to house essential services like the dispatch center, armory, sally port and holding cells, while the existing structure will be used as offices, evidence storage, meeting/training rooms, and locker rooms.

There are between eight and 15 workers on site at any one time, according to Greg Devlin, project manager for Architectural Consulting Group.

The need for new space has been an issue for several decades. The Williamstown Police Association has maintained that it is a matter of safety for officers and detainees, and about improved privacy for victims consulting with investigators.

The current station — a cramped, three-story structure that occupies about a third of town hall — was converted from a 1927 Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house in 1966. It houses 11 full-time police officers and six dispatchers.

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The interview room is audible from much of the station, making it inadequate for interviewing sex crime victims.

Evidence and stolen goods storage share space with the locker facility in the basement, which once served as the fraternity's party room, complete with an unused bar.

The two holding cells are also in the basement, only accessible by a narrow set of stairs from the main floor. Hoch said the existing station has hosted 132 individuals in the detention cells in 2016, and an additional 13 people for protective custody.

In the new building, the sally port entrance allows officers to drive a prisoner into the building and close the door, meaning the prisoner is never outside. The holding cells are just inside a second door, as is processing and interview space. The prisoners are never in a place that can be seen by the public. There are separate spaces for interviewing witnesses and victims.

The dispatch center will be outfitted with new technology and have quicker access to restrooms and a break area.

Where once a few desks were shared by everyone in the old station, the new building has offices for both investigators and sergeants.

There are work stations for line officers as well, and a room to examine evidence next door to a secure evidence storage space.

Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson said officers and staff are looking forward to the move. Once all the furnishings are in, the department will relocate in phases, so law enforcement operations will continue uninterrupted.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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