Groton police seek $5.3M in improvements

Groton - More than $5.3 million in upgrades and renovations to the town's police department headquarters may come up for discussion again this year as part of a $13.5 million capital improvement program spending plan.

The proposed spending for the fiscal year ending in 2014 is a portion of a $97.8 million, six-year plan and still in its draft form. The long-term planning document is completed each year in anticipation of budget discussions and includes ideas generated at the department level for new construction, major improvements and new equipment - nonrecurring expenses that cost more than $25,000.

Just how many of the proposals make it out of Town Manager Mark Oefinger's office this year is unknown, said Michael Murphy, director of planning and development.

The Town Council, with a 5-4 vote, was one vote shy of sending the police station proposal to referendum last year. Ultimately, an $11.2 million road maintenance and rehabilitation plan went to voters and passed.

Groton Police Chief Michael Crowley said the upgrades to the station would include an addition that would double the number of jail cells to 12, expand the processing area and provide shelter to cover patrol vehicles.

The money would also cover replacement of faulty equipment at the department's indoor shooting range, upgrade the camera system and expand the sally port, the place where prisoners are taken from cars into the building.

Crowley said mechanical equipment in the shooting range is constantly breaking down. And while the Navy has constructed a state-of-the-art $11 million facility at the submarine base, use by local departments is inconvenient because of the travel and because it is subject to the Navy's schedule.

Part of the reason for the expansion of the detention area is to better accommodate juvenile prisoners, who by law must now be separated from adults. There is currently one juvenile cell.

"Our whole booking area has not been touched since 1977," Crowley said. "We're talking about a facility that's 34 years old. Not that we don't make do - but things have changed."

In addition to the police department, proposed spending for the upcoming fiscal year includes $445,000 for asbestos removal at Charles Barnum Elementary School. It is part of a $2.5 million in proposed spending for removal of "non-friable" asbestos at several school buildings over the next six years. Non-friable asbestos is a solid form that is not easily released into the air and is found in things such as floor tiles. All known sources of friable asbestos were removed from the schools years ago.

Also up for consideration is a $640,000 plan to upgrade the town's radio systems, $250,000 to aid in plans for new construction in the school district and $75,000 to study the idea of a community and recreation facility with a pool for the parks and recreation department.

Big ticket items - projects that would need the approval of voters - include $1.66 million to improve a drainage system in the area of Judson Avenue and at least $5 million to start an extension of utilities to the industrially zoned area off Flanders Road. Engineering studies have been completed for both projects.

Oefinger said the capital improvement program has not yet been finalized. Any comment on the plan would be premature, he said.


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