A cleanup crew of about a dozen volunteers descended on a now-vacant building along Route 6A early Monday, July 8, that served the town for 46 years as a police station.
Michael P. Miller, president of the Sandwich Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, said that Deputy Chief Michael Nurse asked for their help in cleaning out the old station before the keys are turned in at town hall.
“We’re cleaning out the whole building, starting with the basement,” he said. “The whole building will be cleaned, swept, and dusted.”
Throughout the day, volunteers removed pieces of furniture, wall hangings, and trash. Anything that would be going into the new police station was placed into a trailer; everything else was taken to the transfer station.
Deputy Chief Nurse said the building was designed for a force of 12 when it opened in 1973. It was the town’s first dedicated police station.
In 1835, the town had a building on River Street that was used as a lockup. That building was removed in 1915.
The first full-time police chief was Gilbert F. Smith, who was appointed to the position in 1941. At this time, the department operated out of his Main Street home. When Chief Smith retired in 1955, the department moved its base of operations to inside the Sandwich Fire Station on Route 6A, which is still the headquarters location for the fire department.
Walking through the old station, Deputy Chief Nurse pointed out the locker room—shared by the men and women in the department. At some point, a small kitchen across from the locker room was converted into a bathroom, so the women could have their own space.
In the cell block and the garage, he pointed out where the building has started to split, due to the foundation’s settling into the marshland behind the building. He said they had to remove tile from the cells when they started cracking; it could have provided prisoners with weapon material.
Cracks run across the garage floor and up the wall. Deputy Chief Nurse said the marsh is reclaiming the land that the building was built on top of. While the building is set to be turned over to the town, he said he was not sure what the town has planned for it.
Asked about the future of the former station, Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham said it might be used as a new home for the school district’s administrative offices, at least for a while.
Mr. Dunham said the town is working to sell the Henry T. Wing School, where the school administrative offices are currently located. When the building sells, the administrators will have to move out.
Ultimately, the administrators would like to move into the Human Services Building on Quaker Meetinghouse Road. But that cannot happen until the the Sandwich Council On Aging has a new home. The town is readying to come before voters at a fall Town Meeting to request funds to build a new senior center for the council on aging.
“The [school administrators] have actually toured the police station a couple times,” he said. “They’re very interested in relocating there temporarily.”
Regarding the state of the station, Mr. Dunham said the interior seems to be in passable condition, although a new roof will be needed.
“I don’t think there’s any imminent structural issues,” he said.
At some point he expects that the selectmen will decide to sell the property, although he said the property will earn the town more money if it is paired with the sale of the fire station. There is already a plan in the works to relocate those headquarters to Route 130, next to the Sandwich Department of Public Works.
Mr. Dunham said that the move will get the fire station out of the flood zone.
There is no solid time frame or cost estimate yet for any of these proposed moves.
As for police personnel, Deputy Chief Nurse said they are adjusting to life in the new building and are finding that they have had to adjust the way they communicate with each other in it because their offices are more spread out than they once were. Even how they take breaks has shifted, since there is now a dedicated break area.
They are happy with the new building, but the transition has been somewhat bittersweet for some of them, he said.
“It served us well for a lot of years,” Deputy Chief Nurse said of the old building, before he returned to help the volunteers clear everything out.