NIPD renovation plans presented to the public

  • The New Ipswich Police Department. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Copyright Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/27/2022 11:39:22 AM
Modified: 7/27/2022 11:36:17 AM

The New Ipswich Select Board presented plans to the public on Tuesday for a possible renovation of the existing police station, and how that renovation would be funded, including the possibility of using excess funds from this year’s budget for the project. Initial estimates for the proposed renovation are about $50,000, but the town has not received any official estimates or put the project out to bid.

After being appointed the liaison to the police department, Selectman Jason Somero said one of his first acts as Selectmen had been to meet with then-Chief Carpenter, and ask what his most immediate needs were.

“With no hesitation, he said, ‘We need a place to put people when we arrest them,’” Somero said.

Tuesday’s presentation included a video tour of the current police facilities, which are in a former medical office on Turnpike Road. The 1,400 square foot space includes two offices, an undersized locker room, an administrative office, a combination break room/evidence processing room/interview room, a combined kitchen/office space, and booking area, and a restroom shared by officers and detainees.

The booking area contains a bench to which detainees are attached, within reach of an officer’s desk. There is a single entrance to the police department, where arrestees have to be brought through and may interact with the public. There is no separate area to hold minors who may be detained. Trainings or briefings are held in the hallway or lobby.

Sometimes statements or complaints are also taken in the lobby, due to lack of space. Officers secure their weapons in the same room that is used as a booking area.

Abel said some of these deficiencies create “an enormous safety issue,” while also presenting logistical issues, such as only being able to keep four years of records on site, due to lack or storage space,  having no separate locker area for a female officer, and not having a dedicated generator on site.

“It was not designed as a police facility – it was designed as a medical office,” Abel said. “It’s the way we’ve been doing business for awhile, and it’s really not safe.” Abel added that, “My opinion as chief of police, we have to do something. It’s a liability.”

The proposed renovation would include expanding into the space most recently occupied by Bellows-Nichols insurance. The additional two office rooms would be turned into a booking and holding area, with a separate entrance and waiting area for detainees, and would include two holding cells.

The space would also include a separate area for evidence processing and an interview room.

It is also unsafe to have detainees unsecured, Abel said; on one occasion, a detainee escaped out of the booking room window while attached to the bench, and on another, there was an altercation with a detainee in which Abel was injured, requiring a four-month recovery period.

It would also include a separate bathroom for detainees. Abel said detainees have, in the past, urinated, spit or bled in the common bathroom also used by officers as retaliation.

In addition to the new holding area, the renovation would also remove a wall between a current office space and the kitchen area, to create a larger area where training can be done, as well as some basic upgrades such as new flooring and repainting.

The board also discussed how to pay for the potential renovations, floating solutions that included a warrant article in 2023, a Special Town Meeting, or using funds from this year’s budget.

 Somero said the “easiest way” was to  u se this year’s funds, pointing out that waiting until Town Meeting in 2023 would push the project out a year.

The board did not make any decision about the funding model on Tuesday, but  said the conversation would continue looking at all possibilities.

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