BRATTLEBORO—For years, the personnel who worked in the police station at the Municipal Center dreamed of the day when they would be able to have a clean and secure space.
They imagined a space where suspects and victims of crimes didn’t have to cross paths in a public hallway. They imagined having a place to store evidence and case records that wasn’t infested with mold and mildew.
They imagined having a locker room that wasn’t dungeon-like. And they imagined having enough office space to do their work efficiently.
The dream became reality on Sept. 15 as Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald cut the ribbon to the town’s new police headquarters on Black Mountain Road.
“This project has been generations in the making, and I mean that literally,” said Brattleboro Selectboard Chair Kate O’Connor.
Pointing to Town Manager Peter Elwell, she said that they represented the second generation of O’Connors and Elwells involved in trying to find a better home for the police department.
Their parents, former Town Manager Elwin “Corky” Elwell and former Selectboard Chair Martha O’Connor, were among the many people who attended the open house at the former newsroom and printing operation of the Brattleboro Reformer.
“This facility is a reflection of the desire of the community to provide the people who keep us safe every day with a safe and workable environment,” said Kate O’Connor.
Peter Elwell called the new police station, and the ongoing work on the Central Fire Station on Elliot Street, “an important investment for the next generation and beyond of this community.”
Former Reformer publisher Martin Langeveld said he remembers walking through the building as it was being constructed in 1981. Now, the only vestige of the original building is the mansard roof in the front and the glassed-in foyer that served as the paper’s front door for nearly 36 years.
The Reformer remains in the building, but presses are long gone and the news and advertising departments now operate from a much-smaller office that the paper is renting from the town.
“They pretty much gutted the inside of the building and started from scratch,” said Fitzgerald, who added that he and all the members of his department were involved with the planning of the new station from the beginning.
“We traveled to other departments that had stations built in the last five years, and talked with their chiefs and their personnel and asked what they would have done differently if they started over,” he said. “We asked them about what works and what doesn’t work for them. Then we’d come back and talk about what we saw.”
The idea, Fitzgerald said, was to work with the architects and buildings to create a station that would be appropriate for the current needs of the department and would also be flexible enough to adapt to future needs.
“We had a reasonable budget, and we worked within it,” he said.
The department is still in the process of moving everything from the downtown space into the new building. But soon, the department will have everything up and running on Black Mountain Road, and the memories of the quirks and frustrations of working in a space that was never meant to be a police station will be just that — memories.
Fitzgerald beamed as he showed off his new spacious and well-lit office, which he is still in the process of setting up.
“Isn’t this beautiful? It’s a true chief’s office,” he said. “This is a real police department now.”