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Joint feasibility committee to explore new police station, COA

Date: 10/10/2013

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – As the Senior Center and the Police Department continue to work on getting new facilities, the two government entities will at least begin the process working together.

“I wanted to defuse the perception that these could be competing projects,” Board of Selectmen Chair James Thompson said. “I thought that both projects were worthy and thought if we had people together talking and exchanging ideas, it could be a benefit.”

The Board of Selectmen opted to create a joint feasibility assessment committee on Oct. 7 made up of a panel volunteers interested in either project. The Senior Center had been working on compiling a feasibility committee of roughly seven to nine members, while Thompson said the board had received five inquiries from volunteers regarding a police station study.

Trant Campbell of the Council on Aging said he had concerns about such a committee because of the vast differences between a senior center and a police station.

“I’m not familiar with what they are, but I’m sure the needs of a senior center are not the same as a police station,” he said.

Campbell explained it was his belief that the financing options could be very different and the senior center is looking into private funding sources that might not be available to the Police Department.

Thompson explained that it was not the board’s intent to keep the two projects joined for their duration, but simply during the beginning stages. Both sides could work independently, but would have liaisons to the other committee to ensure that communication was open.

He said most of the work is contingent upon the completion of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District’s building assessment, which is set to be handed to the board next year, and could yield the return of a school building to the town.

He said having the representatives for each committee in a room to discuss the potential benefits of whatever building is available would give everyone involved a better understanding of what the needs are and for which project a building might be better suited.

“We’ll start there and when it feels right, the two committees can split,” Thompson stated.

Russell said it was his belief that this approach would allow the town to make sure it was looking at all aspects of the potential projects.

“This is an attempt on our part to make sure the people know no stone is unturned,” Selectman Robert Russell said.

Police Chief Roger Tucker said he had no problem working with the Council on Aging and the two sides are “not firing missiles at each other.”

Campbell added that while the seniors in the community felt the need for a new senior center, they recognized the need for a new police building and “would not be kicking and screaming” if the town opted to pledge funding for that project.