New fire, police station plans move forward

DRB OKs public safety buildings

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The new public safety facilities are one step closer to reality after last week’s Development Review Board meeting.

The board approved – with conditions – the development of a new fire station and a new police station for which Williston voters approved funding last year. The new fire and rescue station will be constructed at the corner of Talcott Rd. and U.S. Route 2; and the current firehouse next to Town Hall will be demolished and a new police station built in its place.

The $6.8 million project is designed to address town needs for the next 25 years, according to Town Manager Rick McGuire.

“Yes, there’s a little more space than we need right now,” McGuire acknowledged at last Tuesday’s meeting. But, he emphasized, buildings like these cannot be added to incrementally every few years in response to growth.

As the town’s population and commercial activities have grown, so have public safety service needs. According to a draft of the Williston Comprehensive Plan, in 2004, the Williston Police Department responded to twice as many incidents (4,218) as it had ten years prior; and from 1999-2004 police saw a 17 percent increase in calls. The fire department experienced similar increases: Rescue calls rose 16 percent and fire calls increased 24 percent from 2000-2004, the plan says.

Town records show that the public facilities are insufficient. In the town’s 2004 annual report, police Chief Ozzie Glidden indicated the current station was designed for half the number of its current employees; in the “officers’ room” – where officers write reports and affidavits – any given officer must share his or her space with three or more officers.

On top of that, Glidden continues, “this space serves as a changing room, lunch room, interview room, juvenile detention area, conference room, processing and police cruiser videotape screening area, temporary evidence room, storage closet, firearm cleaning and unloading station, records department, evidence processing, etc.”

The new 15,000-square-foot police station – the footprint of which is not much larger than the existing firehouse – will provide separate interview rooms and detention areas.

Fire Chief Ken Morton said the new fire station’s location will save driving time. The average drive time to calls from the current station is seven minutes; in contrast, from the new location, 91 percent of Williston locations can be reached in an average of four driving minutes, Morton said. For both locations, response time is longer when fire personnel are not already at the station.

Conditions from last week’s meeting are set to be finalized at next week’s Development Review Board meeting. Zoning permits can be issued after conditions are met. Act 250 permitting is still ahead. McGuire expects construction bids to be invited in January, with construction scheduled to begin in May. The facilities are expected to be completed in 2007.