With every presentation that the Joint Public Safety Building Committee holds, more questions about the project seem to surface, including concerns about its proposed location.
At a presentation after Special Town Meeting two weeks ago, Peter C. Reilly of Mill Road asked whether it made sense to put the facility at the corner of Quaker Meetinghouse and Cotuit roads, pointing out that those roads are two of the busiest and most congested in town. He questioned whether emergency vehicles would be able to get to calls and whether they would add to the congestion.
“You want to have your police and fire stations in the economic center of town,” Assistant Town Manager Douglas A Lapp said in a telephone interview this week. “The reason why roads such as Quaker Meetinghouse and Cotuit are so congested is because they are arterial roads connecting to other main roads in town. This is where you want a station to be.”
Deputy Fire Chief Thomas A. Corriveau agreed.
“It’s hard for people to understand why we would want to be at a crossroads intersection; but that’s where we need to be to get access to all of the other major roads in town,” he said.
Police Chief Peter N. Wack said that a safety signal would be put in place so that when an emergency vehicle has to exit the driveway to get to a call, the traffic light would stop all traffic, allowing the fire truck, ambulance, or police cruiser to proceed.
Mr. Lapp said that during the planning phase of the project, there were eight options that the committee considered for this public safety building and they chose the one that would bring response times down to under eight minutes for 95 percent of the town.
“The location we have chosen most effectively covers all parts of town,” Mr. Lapp said.
That’s not the case with the current police and fire stations.
Mr. Lapp noted that voters at a Town Meeting back in the 1970s opted for locating the new police station on Route 6A because, at that time, that was the economic center and the most heavily populated part of town. But not any more.
With the potential development of South Sandwich Village Center and the population growth that has taken place in South Sandwich over the past 20 to 30 years, the best location for the police and fire stations today would be on Quaker Meetinghouse Road.
This location, he said, would serve the town well into the future. “We’re near build out now and we don’t see the population shifting to any other areas of town,” he said.
Jane M. Logan of Main Street questioned how quickly firefighters or paramedics coming from South Sandwich could respond to a call in the Town Neck area on a Sunday in the summer when traffic fills the Route 6A corridor as well as the Mid-Cape Highway.
Deputy Chief Corriveau said dealing with traffic congestion on Route 6A in the summertime is a part of their job already. “There are days when the traffic backs up past the fire station and as far down as Quaker Meetinghouse Road. Getting to a call in a traffic jam isn’t something that we can’t get around,” he said.
“Emergency lights and sirens get us right through traffic,” Chief Wack said.
He said he has seen emergency vehicles get through a traffic backup on the Mid-Cape Highway and over the bridge without much of a delay.
Deputy Chief Corriveau said even with the current location of the headquarters and Forestdale station, it is quite possible that emergency personnel from the Forestdale station would be the first responders to a call in the Town Neck area if personnel from headquarters are out on another call. “It happens all the time. People don’t realize that the EMTs are coming from Forestdale,” he said.
Despite the arguments in favor of locating the joint public safety building at the corner of Quaker Meetinghouse and Cotuit roads, Mr. Lapp said the committee members are taking all of the questions and suggestions seriously.
“We have gone back to the consultants and asked them to look into a suggestion that was made to relocate the joint safety building across from the Human Services Building on Quaker Meetinghouse Road and what that would mean for response times. We are actually having additional analysis done,” Mr. Lapp said.
The committee is also responding to concerns about the $30 million price tag for the building and the substation, with some suggesting that the town is opting for high-end materials as opposed to less expensive choices.
“We have heard the community’s comments about not choosing granite when there are less expensive options available and we agree with them. We are not getting granite. We are getting what is required and what is appropriate,” Mr. Lapp said.
Mr. Lapp said building a public safety building is very different from building Town Hall offices or a general office building. “There are certain mandates that we have to follow,” he said.
Chief Wack said the total cost of the building cannot simply be divided by the number of square feet to come up with a per square foot cost.
“By law, we have to build the dispatch area so that it can withstand one hour of flood or fire. The price includes a radio tower, and a generating system, both of which are required for a joint public safety building. We specifically located the radio tower right next to the building to cut down on the cost of the copper piping that would run between the two structures. Some things such as cell blocks have to be built to a higher standard because that is a state requirement. We opted for commercial grade materials wherever possible,” Chief Wack said.
The next information session and presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, November 13, at 7 PM at the Town Hall meeting room. Mr. Lapp said he hopes any residents who have questions or suggestions about this project will attend this presentation. “We’re very excited about the outreach we have been doing and we appreciate all of the feedback we are getting,” he said.