Work begins on police station

A project that will result in a more modern and centralized police station is underway and officials are hopeful the community’s law enforcement agency will be in new digs in several months time.

“The rooms have all been delineated,” village trustee Ken Bartholomew said. “We’re hoping to be in by the end of the summer. That’s not a hard number, but we feel it’s a reasonable goal if we don’t run into any snags.”

Construction of the new station, which will be located in the northern end of the Whitehall Municipal Center, began last month.

The framework for the walls has already been erected and the dry wall is slated to be hung this week. A chain link fence around one of the village’s pumping stations, located adjacent the future police station, was installed last month.

The space includes room for a roughly 11-foot by 8.5-foot reception room, a 134-square-foot office, bathrooms, a locker room and a sound-proof interview room that will double as a holding room and will be shared by the Village and Town Courts in the event they move.

“Everyone is happy with the design. I worked with the chief and the sergeant and everyone seems to be in agreement with it,” Bartholomew said. “We’ve tried to set up something the police department will be happy with.”

Officials have been eyeing a new home for the police station since the Town of Whitehall announced its intention to move into the former Skenesborough Fire House last year.

The current police department, located in the village Department of Public Works building on Montcalm Avenue, is less than desirable, Bartholomew said.

For one, the building is old. It’s also poorly located.

“If a train stopped or rolled over on Williams Street and something happened in the main part of the village, police would have to drive all the way around,” Bartholomew said.

That detour, which would require officers to take County Route 12 to Beckett Road and then on to County Route 18, would add seven miles and more than 12 minutes of time to the department’s response time.

In 2011, a train overturned on South Williams Street, shutting down traffic for hours.

“This should allow the department to service a larger part of the community,” Bartholomew said.

The initial blueprints also include a space for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office has been trying to increase its presence in some of the more remote areas of Washington County so the public doesn’t have to travel all the way to Fort Edward. Earlier this year, the office reached an agreement with the Town of Hampton to set up a space in that community’s town hall where they meet with residents.

Bartholomew said the village and Sheriff’s Office have yet to reach an official agreement but officials seem open to the idea if they can hammer out the details.

“I think it’s a great example of cooperation during a time when shared services are needed,” said trustee Walt Sandford, who recently retired as chief of the Fort Edward Police Department.

“I’m very excited for the new police department.”

Besides the police station, officials hope to move the Village and Town Courts into the municipal center and have secured $60,000 in grant money to help achieve those ends.

But plans to relocate hit a snag when officials learned the cost of renovating that space was estimated to be as much as $400,000, far higher than what had they had expected.

Officials are trying to determine where they can cut costs and are hopeful much of the work can be completed using the grant money.

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