SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 14, 2013

Danvers police station may expand

Town hopes to build new dispatch center

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — A consultant has presented the town with various options to expand the police station on Ash Street to replace the outdated dispatch center inside with an addition onto the building.

As yet, no price tag has been set on the work, said Assistant Town Manager Diane Norris, who sits on a feasibility study committee looking at a new dispatch center at the police station.

It’s a project that Norris said she hopes will be presented to the May Annual Town Meeting next year. If a new communications center is built in Danvers, it will be built in such a way that another community can join it and share the dispatch facility, she said.

Selectmen have decided against joining the new Essex County Regional Communications Center at Middleton Jail on Manning Avenue out of concern about cost and an expansion of the bureaucracy there.

In the meantime, the town is dealing with the need to improve its aging public safety communications infrastructure. Dispatchers now work in a cramped room, while networking and communications equipment sits below them, under water pipes in the basement.

After meeting with fire and police officials over the past several months, the consultant has recommended three options for an addition on to the police station. A committee that includes Norris and Selectwoman Diane Langlais will look at the options.

“They have really done the program for the dispatch improvements, so they have been able to listen to all of that, and from that draw up some options,” Norris said.

The construction of a new communications center may also be a chance to address deficiencies at the police station, so the work will come with various options, Norris said.

This includes increasing the number of men’s and women’s bathrooms and lockers, and replacing single-pane windows that are old and in need of repair. Regardless of the size of a new dispatch center, the work will trigger the need to install fire sprinklers throughout the police station. Addressing all the options is what Norris called “Option 1.”

“Then you get to Option 2 and Option 3, and they are just kind of pared down versions of Option 1,” Norris said. “Option 3, the minimalist one, I would call, is a one-floor addition, as you are looking at the police station, the left side of it.”

Option 3 would only address needs for a new dispatch center. The addition can be constructed in such a way that it would allow additional stories, allowing for the other work on the police station to be done in a phased approach.

“There are no dispatch improvements that are within the footprint of the building,” Norris said. “It’s good to have those options, depending on political will, the financial availability of funding, it gives you a good menu to pick from and a lot of discussion points.”

The dispatch center will be built so that it is can accommodate both Danvers dispatchers and those from another community sharing the facility. It’s based on a dispatch center built in Acton.

“We are not eliminating the possibility of future partners by the structure itself,” Norris said.

The consultant on the feasibility study is Dore and Whittier Architects, which has an office in Newburyport. Officials hope the study on dispatch and police station improvements will be finished before Christmas.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.