Officials say current Milford police station is obsolete

Police Chief Keith Mello stood in the narrow hallway of the Boston Post Road police station, pointing out that two people cannot walk side by side.

A room where police lineups once took place is now filled with confiscated computer equipment, and lineups are held in what has become an all-purpose room.

There is no proper evidence room: To safeguard evidence, police store it in the all-purpose room and put crime tape across the door so no one goes in.

When it’s icy, yellow caution tape stretches in front of the building because sheets of ice slide off the copper roof and could fall on people.

These are just some of the problems that make the police station obsolete, according to Mello and Police Commission Chairman Rich Smith, who led several reporters through the maze of offices, storage rooms, locker rooms and other components of the building earlier this week.

The Board of Aldermen recently voted to borrow $4.5 million to buy land further down on the Boston Post Road to build a new police station. The deal hasn’t gone through yet, but it is in the works. Smith estimates that if all goes well, there could be a new police station in 2.5 years on six acres of land at 130-150 Boston Post Road. The site is roughly across the street from the Planet Fitness gym and Bobettes.

A police station building committee started its mission with an eye on determining if the existing station should be expanded or if a new headquarters should be built elsewhere.

Police moved into the station at 430 Boston Post Road in 1978, and Mayor Ben Blake has said that it was obsolete on day one.

“Over the past 35 years, 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,” according to a proposal included in a capital improvement plan.

Blake said an expanded police station has been in the city’s capital improvement plan since 1998.

Chief Mello showed reporters a number of tight spaces, structural problems and design inadequacies throughout the department. 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.

They were different times when the current station was built.

“It was built like a fortress,” Mello said. “It was really built to keep people out. Now we want to bring people in.”

Mello said that while the population has stayed pretty stagnant, there are more businesses in town and calls for service have gone up since the late 1970s.

The current police station is located on 2.73 acres. Mello said he started looking for a new site when he became chief 12 years ago, and even then he thought the best location would be the land that the aldermen have now voted to purchase.

Back then, the Boston Post Road property was not for sale. “Then this land becomes available and I see it as such an opportunity for Milford,” Mello said at a recent Board of Aldermen’s meeting.

The site is close enough to the current station that the communication tower will not have to be moved, and that would have cost $1.5 million, city officials said.

City officials plan to sell the current property for about $3.5 million, which would cover a large chunk of the $4.1 million for the new site. The communication tower will stay where it is.

The current station is 43,000 square feet, and of that 38,000 is usable. The chief said the new station will be between 62,000 and 66,000 square feet.

Mello said a new police station should last well into the future.

“You’ll never have to build another facility again,” the chief said.