After driving around the town the six months I’ve lived here, I’ve learned a few things. The town doesn’t really need any more antique shops. It doesn’t need any more snow. But, it does need a new public safety building.
Our professional police and fire safety personnel are working in extremely adverse conditions.
Men and women share lockers at the police station.
In the fire station, women are forced to sleep on a mattress in a workout room.
The police station is literally sinking into the ground.
Six sergeants share a room at the police station that is smaller than my downstairs bathroom.
More importantly, prisoners are taken from an unsecured garage, down a corridor where secretaries walk, and into a room that only recently got a lock to keep the prisoners in.
Currently, the Sandwich Fire Department is housed in the station on Route 6A. They have a firehouse in East Sandwich that is used for storage and is unmanned. There is also a firehouse in Forestdale that is manned. As for the police, there’s a station adjacent to the fire department on Route 6A.
The Sandwich Police Station is approximately 4,600 square feet and houses 35 employees. The Town of Wellfleet has a 5,200-square-foot station and houses 15 employees—and they need more room.
Sandwich Police Chief Peter Wack tells Snyder’s Sandwich that 21 folks share a 14-foot by 11-foot room where 10 at a time are writing out reports, or eating. It’s jam-packed. The building is literally sinking, and the walls and ceilings are splitting apart. It looks like the beginning of a miniature earthquake.
Wack has made the most out of his space. The former’s chief’s office—with its own bathroom—is now an upscale interview room, with the latest audio and video capabilities. An office which had housed three officers was changed into a beautiful conference room, with 13 comfy chairs, that doubles as a place where detectives can monitor interrogations, and signal in to an interviewing officer if they have additional information that may help the investigator.
The police station currently has four cells for men, one for women, and one for a juvenile. All are fully monitored.
The original plan for a new building combined the fire and police departments, with a joint dispatch center. A total of $125,000 of taxpayer funds was expended on that study, which also recommended building a substation near the high school.
Chief Wack says that putting the departments under one roof, or at least next to each other, offers many advantages. He said that he is better able to work with Fire Chief William Carrico face-to-face.
“We have worked together on the continued issues of winter and tropical storms, as well as training on the Narcan and Epipens. They support our medical kits, and we just need to walk next door. We share radios and dispatch hardware, as well as servers for the computers. We house all the fire server systems in our building. Everything is shared. A joint building would save money on separate lines, as well as on dispatch costs.”
Chief Wack suggested that the town fix up the fire station and use it as a substation.
“It doesn’t really have the room needed for administrative headquarters.”
What should they do with the police station? Wack suggested it could be donated to an organization like the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce, which could use it as a welcoming center. (Maybe the jail cells could be used for businesses that are delinquent in their dues?)
Whatever happens, Wack hopes that the town’s planner will use information already available.
He added, “We invested a lot of money in the study. We hope the information he uncovered will still be considered valid.”
Chief Wack is worried that there is currently not enough space for his officers to do their day in and day out jobs. The evidence room is not ventilated property, and was previously not secured properly. Every month the evidence officer sends a note to the commander. The patrol officer does inventory yearly on the drug and physical evidence. Weapons inspections are done every month. All 31 officers carry tasers, as a non-lethal solution to violence.
Chief Carrico said he is severely undermanned.
“We need additional people,” he told Snyder’s Sandwich. “We currently have eight per shift, with six minimum manning. I’d like to add 12, to give me nine per shift, with a seven-minimum manning. I know the cost is high, and budgets are tight. So, I’m suggesting we add four per year, for the next three years. Every four firefighters cost approximately $250,000. I’d like to ease the burden on the taxpayers, while being able to care fully for their safety needs.”
There are currently seven small beds in an attic room in the fire station for the male employees’ overnights. For the females, there is a mattress on the floor of the workout room next door. There is one shower/bathroom, which is shared by all males and females on shift.
Carrico said he’d like to see the Forestdale station “rebuilt as a public safety building. We could move the administrative staff there.”
He would d also like to reopen the East Sandwich station.
“There can be up to a 12-minute response time for East Sandwich homes on the West Barnstable border,” he said. “We should offer them the same service we offer to other parts of the town.”
As for some of the savings that Carrico sees that Wack did not enumerate on, he says, “We’d need only one conference room and one training room that we could share. We’d marry the two information systems. And, sharing dispatchers would be a savings and a great resource. The dispatchers also would answer the door around the clock. We back-fill other stations when calls come in.”
Chief Carrico also sees great savings in the cost of heating and air conditioning. “With our housing in the attic, it costs a lot to keep the temperature livable in the summer. A new building can be made to be environmentally more cost-effective.” There is currently no area of the fire station to conduct any kind of training. Carrico would love to see that change.
Selectman Jim Pierce shared his personal opinion on a new public safety building with Snyder’s Sandwich. He wasn’t speaking for the board. He told me, “The voters didn’t go for the ‘home run.’ So, let’s try some ‘small ball.’ I’d start by going to the voters in May 2015 with a proposal to increase fire/rescue personnel by the minimum number that would make a difference. That may or may not be the whole 12 for a full 24/7 crew. I’d include the minimum number of civilian dispatchers, maybe two, to get more sworn manpower on the road for the day shift. I’d also include the $2.5 million to $3 million to build an East Sandwich substation. That would be it for Phase 1. The new joint headquarters doesn’t have to be built all at once. I’ve been told a police/emergency management facility could be built for a reasonable number of dollars. If we eventually agree on a joint headquarters, then we build police/EM situated on the lot so that fire/rescue HQ can be built adjacent to it in the future. That’s Phase 2.
Phase 3 would be building the new fire/rescue HQ. Phase 4 would close current fire/rescue HQ and the building of a new Village substation.”
Pierce concluded, “It might take a decade to get the voters to accept all of that. But, a scratch single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a shot to center produces twice as many runs as a home run surrounded by three strike outs. And, there is still only one out, with a man on first.”
RUMBLINGS AROUND TOWN
GET A TOTE BAG & HELP SENIORS. The Friends of the Sandwich Council on Aging are doing their biggest fundraiser of the year, to coincide with many of the events of the Sandwich 375th Celebration. They will be selling beautiful tote bags, featuring scenes of Sandwich, for only $15. You can buy yours at the Daffodil Festival, the Irish Tenor Concert, Heritage Day in June, and many other Sandwich events. If you’d like to sell them in your store, to help the seniors, or would like to purchase one for yourself, call Carol at 508-888-0937 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the Friends’ only fundraiser this year. Please help them to help the seniors in our town!
LIFE CAN BE A PARADE: Have you pictured yourself as a float? Want to march in a parade? Have an organization that could use a little attention? Now’s your chance! The annual Sandwich American Legion Post 188 Memorial Day Parade needs you! It will be held on May 26. Participants must be at the Henry T. Wing School at 33 Water Street, by 9 AM. The parade is scheduled to begin promptly at 10 o’clock. The parade will stop to place wreaths on several veteran memorials in town, and wind up with ceremonies in front of the Sandwich Public Library. Post 188 invites any individuals or organizations that would like to join in the parade to contact honor guard Commander Richard Lothrop, parade coordinator, at 774-238-0535 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Mark Snyder, who has written more than 1,890 articles in newspapers and magazines, and published three books, is the CEO of PMPNetwork.com, the Internet’s entertainment superstation. Have a story idea? He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook (Snyder’s Stoughton), and on Twitter (MediaMan2009). Write him via snail mail at Box 639, East Sandwich.