Plans move forward for new Milford PD; mayor proposes expanding current building

Milford Police Department

Milford Police Department

Plans are moving forward for a new police station on the Boston Post Road even though Mayor Ben Blake said he still wants to consider revamping the current police station.

A design for a new Milford Police Station is near completed, and both the police chief and building committee chairman think a new police station is definitely the way to go.

Still, Blake said he is not completely sold on the idea of a new station.

Last January, city leaders voted to buy about six acres of land on the Boston Post Road for $4.5 million for a new Milford police station. The site is roughly across the street from the Planet Fitness gym. It is the same area where a new Big Y grocery store was recently announced.

The current police station was built in 1978 at 430 Boston Post Road, and police and other city officials have said it was too small and obsolete from day one. An expanded police station has been in the city’s capital improvement plan since 1998.

“All available space has been utilized to the point where we are using external storage space for recovered property as well as off-site space for task force and special operation initiatives,” a proposal included in a previous year’s capital improvement plan said.

Police Chief Keith Mello has for a number of years painted a picture of a police station designed just before the world and policing evolved.

Today there are more female officers than in the past, there is a computer forensics area in need of a lab, and there is a juvenile justice bill that requires juveniles be held separately from adults — issues that make the current building obsolete.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to the chief.

Mello also noted that the combined police, fire and EMS dispatch center at the Milford Police Department requires more space: Police and fire dispatch were once separate.

City officials have said that they would eventually sell the current police station property to help pay some of the cost for the new one. The new site is close enough to the current station that the communication tower will not have to be moved, and that would have cost at least $1 million, city officials said.

The current police station is about 43,000 square feet, plus another 4,000-square-foot garage. The chief said the proposed station is now planned at 62,000 square feet, plus another 14,000-square-foot garage and outbuilding.

“It’s likely that this will be the last police department ever built” for Milford, Mello said, adding that if more space is ever needed in the future, there is room to expand.

Kaestle Boos out of New Britain is doing the design work; the contractor is Downes Construction, also out of New Britain.

Police Commission Chairman Rich Smith estimates construction costs will be $30 million to $33 million, and said that because of trade tensions with China and increased tariffs, construction costs could go up dramatically if the city waits too long to start construction.

“The sooner the cheaper,” Smith said.

Smith said a lot of work has gone into the design phase.

“Our most critical challenge was to ensure we did not deliver a station that did not fully meet the current and future needs of our police department,” Smith said.

“Unfortunately, when the Milford police force moved into the current location back in 1979, the building was already too small. Our committee recognized if we are to build, it needed to be done right, with an understanding that this facility would need to meet our city’s needs and the needs of our police department for generations,” he said.

He said the building committee has delivered a detailed design document and is preparing to move on to final design and construction planning.

Smith said the building committee explored all options regarding upgrading or adding onto the existing police station and said there is not a configuration that works in that location.

Mayor Blake said this week, however, that it might be possible to expand the current police station toward the Public Works Department, which is behind the police station.

The design for the new police station is “bigger than what we budgeted,” Blake said, adding, “We are still considering both options” — meaning building new or renovating the current building.

Blake said the land that the city bought last year on the Boston Post Road is worth considerably more today than it was a year ago, and if the city doesn’t use it for a police station it can sell the land for a profit. He said he’s gotten calls from prospective buyers.

Smith said the building committee plans to meet with the mayor soon and hopes to reach a consensus. If a design is finalized for a new police station, and the city agrees that is the way to go, the plans will have to go to the aldermen for bonding approval.

Mello said that once construction starts on a new police station, it would take about 20 months to build.