At its regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 4, the commission discussed a proposal by Jacunski Humes Architects of Berlin, Conn., to study the renovation of existing space occupied by the departments, and other space options, including building a new facility or moving to another town-owned building.
However, no vote was taken on the proposal, as a formal presentation from the architects was being made at the selectmen’s meeting the following night. But a sense of the commission was to support the study.
The Police Department is located on the upper and lower levels of Weston Town Hall. Town officials have indicated a desire to bring offices back into town hall that were relocated to the Annex, a temporary building on School Road that is reaching the end of its life expectancy.
In order to free up space for those offices, options under consideration include possibly moving the Police Department to another facility, or building an addition onto town hall or at the fire station.
The communications 9-1-1 dispatch center would also be part of the study.
It is housed in what was once a hallway between the lower level of the Police Department and the firehouse. It is constructed of cinder blocks and equipped with standard casement windows. There is no safety barrier between the parking lot and the main dispatch desk.
In 2005, Town Administrator Tom Landry and the Police Commission approved a space study of the communications center that was done by Val Lubans of Systems Design Group. Mr. Lubans recommended reconfiguring the facility and creating an addition to the existing space. That work was not done.
One reason for delaying renovation work on the communications center was the possibility that dispatch services could be regionalized with another town, such as Easton, Redding, Wilton, or Westport. In that case, the center would move out of Weston.
Last year, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein asked the Police Commission to calculate the costs to regionalize with Easton and Redding at a facility in Redding. It was estimated it would cost the town about $100,000 more per year in expenses to regionalize, so the idea was taken off the table.
This year, the town explored regionalizing with Wilton.
Weston police Chief John Troxell said he did not support regionalization with Wilton and that in light of Superstorm Sandy, the issue is again “off the table.”
“I kept an open mind to the possibility of regionalizing with Wilton, but after Sandy, I realized the communications center is the nerve center of the town and during an emergency it wouldn’t be practical to have it located elsewhere,” he said.
During Sandy, police, fire, EMS, local officials, and emergency workers gathered in the communications center to field calls from the public and keep track of power outages.
“Even though Wilton is only seven minutes away, during Sandy there were a considerable number of downed trees and wires, and roads were blocked, so we couldn’t even get there if we wanted to. For public safety reasons, we need to keep the communications center in Weston,” Chief Troxell said.
Several members of the Police Commission attended the selectmen’s meeting to learn more about the space study.