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Thibodeau: $150k is needed for new car, expansion, renovations

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SHIRLEY — The Police Department needs a new cruiser, the station needs upgrades including a new sign and flooring, and the 10-year-old building needs to be expanded, said police Chief Paul Thibodeau.

At the Jan. 29 Board of Selectmen meeting, Thibodeau presented a list of capital requests for fiscal year 2008 and fielded questions from the selectmen and Finance Committee.

First on the list is replacing a cruiser at a cost of $31,200. That amount covers a new Ford Crown Victoria. Specialized equipment that makes a car a cruiser will be transferred from the current vehicle, a 2003 model with more than 110,000 miles on it.

Asked if a smaller car would do, Thibodeau said no. Only the “Crown Vic” and Ford Explorer carry a “police pursuit” rating, he said, with hefty suspension systems and the ability to run 24 hours per day — a key police function other vehicles can’t stand up to.

As for the old cruiser, it still has life left and could be sold or recycled in town.

“The Department of Public Works has expressed interest ” he said.

The sign request includes granite pillars and lettering on both sides, but Thibodeau said it might be possible to use pillars already at the site, as Selectman Charles Shultz suggested.

People have complained the current sign is hard to see at night, the chief said, and lettering on the building virtually disappears in the dark.

Shultz suggested repainting the letters so they are more visible. He also agreed the new sign must be two-sided. Looking to save money, he asked if students from Shriver Job Corps or an area vocational school might be tapped to do the job.

Town administrator Kyle Keady said he’d look into it.

When the Police Department moved from its former headquarters to the new station in November 1996, construction was complete, but the interior was still a work in progress. Thibodeau and administrative assistant Ann Whiting moved in first after the furnace in the old building quit and the heating system was condemned.

The new station officially opened in March 1997 with an open house. Although a big improvement, there were space issues from the start.

“We did what we could with the money we had at that time,” said Thibodeau.

On the plus side, the handsome brick façade and pillars fit the architectural motif of the town municipal complex, he said, and the interior layout is designed specifically for its purpose, with a modern dispatch area and a secure prisoner lockup.

But the locker room is too small, he said, and storage is limited. Now, the crunch has become a problem, particularly in the communication center, where new computer equipment has been added. The staff has grown, too.

An addition with a basement would provide storage space, said Thibodeau.

He cited a “rough estimate” of $150,000, but asked for an architectural assessment to pin down the cost and put current and future requirements into design perspective.

Keady proposed asking Tappe Associates what an assessment would cost. Tappe is the architectural firm that designed the new middle school, but not the police station.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau has trimmed his wish list, shelving a request to replace worn-out flooring in a “high-traffic” hallway at Keady’s suggestion.

Since flooring can be rolled into the building expansion, “why replace it twice?” he asked.

Thibodeau concurred.