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Weston eyes space needs assessment for police and communications

weston-police-stationThe Board of Selectmen is recommending the town hire an architectural firm that specializes in Connecticut police facilities to do a space needs assessment for the Weston Police Department and communications center.

The board met last Thursday, Dec. 6, with Brian Humes of Jacunski Humes Architects LLC from Berlin, Conn., to discuss Mr. Humes’ background and what he can offer the town.

The town has been looking to make improvements to the police station and communications center for years. Approximately $40,000 is in the current budget for a townwide space needs assessment.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said Weston police Chief John Troxell presented her and Town Administrator Tom Landry with three proposals, and Jacunski Humes “stood out” because of its understanding of the role of the Police Department in the community, she said.

The company has designed, re-designed, or done additions for about 40 police facilities throughout Connecticut, including in Danbury, Darien, Monroe, and Redding.

Chief Troxell said when he spoke with Redding police Chief Doug Fuchs, Chief Fuchs said he was very pleased with Jacunski Humes’ work, calling it “on time, on budget, and extremely professional.”

Mr. Humes said he has been designing police facilities, mostly in Connecticut and Massachusetts, for 25 years, 16 of which with his own firm.

Mr. Humes’ proposal includes:

• Project research and data collection.

• Determining the Police Department’s space needs and site requirements with an anticipated 20-year growth potential.

• Establishing space parameters for identified needs.

• Reviewing communications center requirements and desired upgrades.

• Site evaluations.

• Schematic design, including creation of floor plans.

• Providing professional detailed cost estimates.

Mr. Humes said the assessment would be broken into “phases” and the board would be asked to review and authorize further work after each phase.

Ms. Weinstein said separate payments would be made after each phase was deemed by the selectmen to be successfully completed.

These “progressive steps” include research, a needs assessment and establishing space parameters ($8,000); applying the assessment to the current site ($2,000); designing a floor plan ($10,000); and providing a professional cost estimate and final report ($5,000). The total fee is $25,000.

Unique facilities

Police facilities are “unique buildings” for several reasons, Mr. Humes said.

They have three distinct occupants or users: members of the public, staff, and detainees. “All three of these occupants deserve and need to be afforded safety and security and confidentiality,” Mr. Humes said. These can be provided through construction methods, using technology, and by use of specific building materials, he said.

In addition, unlike in, for example, a school, almost every room has a different function. And lines of security have to be clearly defined and taken into account. This makes planning for the future important, Mr. Humes said.

Allen Swerdlowe of the Building Committee asked Mr. Humes about all the phases necessary to successfully design and construct a “reconsidered police department.”

Mr. Humes said under the proposal, his firm would complete the first phase, which is to provide the town with “pre-referendum services,” meaning enough information for the community that a project could go to a vote.

Subsequent phases would include:

• Bonding.

• Determining the best delivery method (hiring a construction manager or a general contractor).

• Creating bid documents.

• Construction.

• Furniture and equipment acquisition.

• Occupancy.

Initial thoughts

Stressing he had done only an initial walk-through of the current facilities, and would still need to talk with many stakeholders, Mr. Humes did offer a general sense of what he sees in Weston’s current facilities.

“Based on my experience, there are things that need to be improved upon. There are safety concerns. There are liabilities. There are code issues that need to be addressed,” he said.

“Whenever I go into a community and look at police facilities and I’m asked to be doing a space needs assessment, it’s because conditions have long been neglected,” he said. That is no different from what he sees in Weston, he added.

Weston, however, seems to be “better than some” communities, which can sometimes need three to four times the amount of space they have, he said.

“What I like in your report is you define needs and eliminate wants,” the first selectman told Mr. Humes. “For me, this is really the key going forward with this project.”

The selectmen agreed Jacunski Humes’ proposal should go to the Building Committee and the Police Commission for review. The town attorney also had some “tweaks” to make to the contract before the board would be asked to formally vote on it, Ms. Weinstein said.

Selectman Dennis Tracey said he wanted assurances the first selectman would act as an “interface” with the various boards and commissions. “I wouldn’t be comfortable unless you were directly involved,” Mr. Tracey said.

“I absolutely will be directly involved,” Ms. Weinstein said.

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