WESTFIELD — Ward 3 Councilor and Finance Chair Ralph J. Figy asked the City Council at last week’s meeting to immediately consider a transfer from stabilization of $85,000 for a study for a new police station. $70,000 for the feasibility study, and $15,000 for reimbursement for GIS locations and a traffic study.
Asked what was the rush, Figy said that any day, the state could come in and shut the doors after an inspection of the building for mold by the Department of Public Health was held late last month. DPH also checked for air quality.
“We know it’s coming,” he said at the Oct. 7 meeting.
“I support it. It’s long in coming. I appreciate the effort to get this done. It’s worthy of the expense to get an idea of what we truly need,” said at-large Councilor Dave Flaherty.
Flaherty said as they look at the capital plan, several massive items, including the school building project, are coming before the council at the end of the month.
At-large Councilor Dan Allie said he would like to see the funding go towards mitigation of the problems at the existing police station, rather than studying a replacement.
Figy said the study started after the courthouse closed in Springfield and mold was discovered in the police station. He said over an unspecified number of years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to fix problems in the building.
“The basis of this study is to find a location,” he said.
“It’s a really crappy building,” said Ward 5 Councilor John J. Beltrandi III. He said he was approached by senior police officers that morning, saying how hard it is to put up with the building’s deficiencies.
Ward 1 Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli Jr. asked why this spending wasn’t being studied in a subcommittee. He said although he would support the request, he was upset about it being posted for immediate consideration.
Figy said it wasn’t on the agenda for immediate consideration, but he made the call to ask for it because of the expected negative report from DPH.
At-large Councilor James Adams, who is the council’s liaison to the Police Department, said the funding is for a request for a quote to go out and find three potential locations for a building.
“I asked for immediate consideration,” Adams said, adding that the building could be shut down next week.
“We need a company to come in and find three locations. By waiting two more weeks, it was just going to back it up. We had to wait to see if we have the bonding capacity,” Adams said. He said the city finally has the numbers for the cost of the new school, and purchasing agent Tammy Tefft said although the numbers are tight, the city will have the bond money needed.
Morganelli asked if building a safety complex, discussed in years past to house both fire and police, was still on the table.
Ward 4 Councilor Michael Burns said you can’t put fire and police safety together “in this day and age.”
“My dad was there in 1973 when it opened. By the time he was in [the ’80s], it probably should have closed then. I agree with Councilor Adams — it’s time,” Burns said.
Adams said a public safety complex is not on the table, because it’s not needed. “We were waiting for a number from the school. We couldn’t do it until now,” he said.
Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. has put together a team consisting of himself, Tefft, City Treasurer Matthew Barnes, police officers and officials, Police Commission members, and city councilors to figure out what the best path forward would be for the Police Department and the headquarters itself.
Flaherty said he believes there is “political horseplay” going on because the school project, which is now expected to cost more than double what the police station will, increased from an initial estimate of $17 million on the city side to now $30 million. He said the increased cost to the city has cut down on what the city can afford to spend to meet its long-term capital needs, leaving just the police station, the school, and “not much of anything else”
“We might get lucky. The Data Center will bring in more money,” Flaherty said, referring to a massive proposed development on industrial land off Servistar Industrial Way. He added that he appreciated the efforts of Adams, Figy and Bean to get the police station project moving.
The transfer passed unanimously, with Figy thanking the council on behalf of present and former staff. Figy’s wife, Susan Figy, is a retired Westfield police detective.