Chief Valliere outlines need for new police headquarters

The classroom in the Westfield Police Department in the basement of the Washington St. headquarters. Much of the room was recently cleared out, as it is clearly not in good shape. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- Police Chief Lawrence P. Valliere said Jan. 17 that the department is building a planning team to begin the process of finding a new home for the Westfield Police Headquarters. 

Valliere said that members of the department will meet with Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. to begin the process to move the police department out of the aging building on Washington Street.

While giving a detailed tour of the building, Valliere said that the age of the building combined with changes that have been made to the structure over the years has made it difficult for the police to want to keep it as their home. 

“There are heating and air conditioning problems and leaks all throughout the building,” said Valliere, naming just a few of the building’s major problems. 

The building was constructed in the 1970s. Valliere said that the average recommended lifespan is typically between 20 and 50 years, putting the police headquarters at the tail end of its life. 

The ceiling of the classroom is severely degrading in some spots, which is problematic as the room sits underneath one of the garage bays. (Photo by Peter Currier)

The Chief did not give a timeline for when a new location would be selected and the move would be made, as they are still early in the process. 

Changes to the building necessitated by new regulations have made things difficult for police and prisoners alike in the building. The department was at one point required to install plexiglass panels on all of the cell doors in the lockup downstairs in order to prevent people in the cells from using the bars to hang themselves. 

While it does prevent at least one method of suicide, the plexiglass prevents proper airflow from getting into the cells, making it difficult to remain inside depending on the weather. 

The classroom in the basement of the headquarters was recently gutted due to the rundown nature of the room. Exposed wires hanging from the ceiling and major cracks forming in the concrete ceiling, above which is one of the garages, made the room unsafe for use. To fix the classroom would cost between $50,000 and $80,000, according to Valliere.  

Another issue  is the fact that police vehicles today are made bigger than they were when the headquarters was constructed. In many cases, the vehicles are simply unable to fit inside the garage. Valliere noted also that the parking lot is barely big enough to hold the police fleet.

Valliere said that he had recently painted his office, only for a leak to come through the roof and damage the lighting and paneling on the ceiling. 

On top of physical degrading and damage to the building, Valliere said that mold and mice have made their home in the ventilation system of the structure, causing potential long-term health hazards. 

Valliere provided an 18-step plan for the process of coming up with a new building. He said that interest has been expressed in certain properties around the city but that he would not announce them publicly until they are further along in the process. 

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