Much of the work in the first phase has been completed, but not all of it.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town's insurance company has threatened to close down the police station, according to Town Manager Kelli Robbins.
Robbins told the Selectmen last week that an insurance representative toured multiple town buildings and was "very upset" with the conditions at the station. The representative apparently told Robbins that the building is now being placed into a "high risk" category, which will increase the cost to insure it.
The state's Division of Labor Standards has also been notified of the conditions, she said.
"It may result in the police station being closed," Robbins said last Monday. "They want things to be different up there."
The station is currently being renovated by Selectman Robert Ericson who has been volunteering his time. The funds have been coming from a Green Communities grant. At a special town meeting, voters approved allocating additional funds to move the project along.
Robbins said she hasn't received anything in writing regarding the inspection but conversations with the insurance company cited issues with a lack of safety measures, licenses, compliance with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, and certified plans for the renovation project.
The renovations have been four years in the making and Police Chief Timothy Sorrell said the department has yet to gain additional workspace. On multiple occasions, the union has filed letters with town officials decrying the "unsafe and unprofessional" conditions there.
Sorrell and the officers have both voiced a desire for a new station, saying the current building has outlived its life as a police station. State Sen. Adam Hinds toured the building and agreed to back such an effort.
Hinds' involvement almost led to the stoppage of work as some officials, including Sorrell and Board of Selectmen John Goerlach questioned whether the town should put more money toward the building if the state would end up coming up with money for a new station.
A new station was once eyed to be built on the town-owned parcel across the street on Prospect Street. The 19 acres there was purchased by the town to build a senior center, youth center, and police station. White Engineering provided an estimate of $717,000 for the police station in 2008 -- though that price has likely increased a significant amount since then.
That concept called for office space for the chief and five full-time officers, 10 part-time and reserve officers, locker rooms for both men and women with shower facilities, a witness interview room, bathroom facilities for both men and women, a reception area, booking area, evidence room, and a garage with space for two cruisers. Funding for that large project dried up and the plans have been sitting on the shelf.
In 2014, Ericson set his mind to improving the 1880s building, feeling that even if the town eventually does something different for a station, the town will still own the building. The station was originally constructed by volunteers and the retired engineer wanted to keep the tradition alive. He believed by doing the work himself, he could significantly reduce the cost to renovate the station.
Ericson got an engineer on board to craft the blueprints to renovate the entire station. In June 2017, the work began and storage items were moved out of the department and into a storage unit in the parking lot -- costing the town $175 per month. Ericson has had some starts and stops but has made process in the southern end of the building, installing a new boiler and building and insulating walls. The former garage has since taken the shape of a new locker room, interview room, office space, and booking area.
In March, the process was still too slow for the officers who felt they have been working long enough in a construction zone. The union filed another complaint with the town and the Board of Selectmen pushed Ericson to move quicker.
The more recent inspection could trigger the town to act even more quickly in deciding what to do with the station.
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