Warrant Article 20 ~ Expand and Remodel the Bedford Police Station

Voters at Town Meeting will decide whether the town will spend $6.4 million to expand and remodel the police station at 2 Mudge Way. The proposed changes would modernize the facility, give the police department more space to operate, replace the building’s heating and air conditioning system in accordance with the town’s Energy Net Zero policy, and alter both the external appearance of the building and the traffic pattern around it. The cost would be split between $4.1 million that is bonded and $2.3 million to come from other available funds.

The proposal is Article 20 on the Town Meeting warrant. Originally, it was part of last year’s warrant, but was dropped when the warrant was slimmed down in response to the pandemic. The Select Board, the Finance Committee, and the Capital Expenditure Committee all recommend approval.

Under the proposal, the building’s footprint expands by stretching each wing outward. The entrance on Mudge Way remains the same, and the rear of the building, the side closest to the Great Road, gets a facelift to emphasize that it is not an alternative entrance.

Police Chief Robert Bongiorno assured The Citizen that care is being taken to maintain architectural consistency. The town is using the same architectural firm that remodeled the building in 1996 when the Police Department moved from its shared space in the current Fire Station. “So there’s a keen understanding of the historical perspective of the building, wanting to keep the roof lines and the sightlines with the new additions that we need. So we’re really trying to work on a concept that keeps the historical perspective of the building and blends in those additions.”

A redesigned parking lot will include a right-turn egress onto Great Road, and anticipates the possibility that future police cruisers might be electric and require charging stations.

In addition to increasing the capacity of the HVAC system to heat and cool a larger space, the entire building will be brought into compliance with the town’s Energy Net Zero plan. The current natural-gas heating will be replaced with an electric system, reducing the building’s carbon footprint. Some, but not all, of the increased electricity usage will be generated by solar panels. Many energy-efficiency upgrades will be made throughout the building. At the January 6, 2020 meeting of the Select Board, the capital budget for the project was increased by $1 million (to the current $6.4 million) to account for these changes.

In addition to the space the remodeling will provide, the Police Department also plans to reclaim space currently used by the Bedford History Museum, which the Bedford Historical Society hopes to relocate to Old Town Hall. The Domestic Violence Services Network will continue to have space in the police station.

The proposal is motivated by an overall lack of space rather than a single need. Chief Bongiorno summed up the case for expansion: “The functionality of the building doesn’t meet the needs of a 21st-century police department. …  I think [the town] renovated the building in 1996 to meet the needs then.  We’re trying to meet the needs now, but also look to future needs and make sure that we have those encompassed in the building as well.”

Assistant Town Manager Amy Fidalgo emphasized that the remodeling should be forward-looking, and not just accommodate current needs. “Having some extra room that hasn’t been determined yet, how it will be used, is actually a good thing.”

One major way policing has changed since 1996, Chief Bongiorno said, is the increased amount of equipment at all levels: more for officers to carry on their belts, more to fit into the cruisers, and more to store at the station. “Storage and office space were an issue even before we moved into the building. But at that time it was the best option available.” In particular, the climate-controlled room housing the department’s computer servers is approaching capacity.”We have no additional room for rack space.”

The Chief identified two other needed upgrades: the station’s evidence room and armory, which do not meet current national standards. (The department’s accreditation relies in part on receiving a waiver from the state.)

The capacity of the training/community room will approximately double, from 24 seats to around 50. This will reduce costs by allowing the Department to host more officer-training sessions, drawing police from surrounding towns rather than sending Bedford officers to train elsewhere.

An additional goal is improving the work experience of Bedford’s police officers, by giving them a more comfortable and functional workplace. The Department hopes to expand the currently cramped roll call room where officers meet at the changing of shifts, to give officers more locker room space to suit up, and to expand the Department’s exercise room. “I’m really big into wellness for the officers,” the Chief said. “At the end of the day, if the officers are happy, if they’re working out, if they’re healthy, there’s a direct benefit to the level of service that the community gets long term and short term.”

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