BERLIN — Prompted by residents’ interest, the Berlin Mayor and Council took a moment last week to give a progress update on a new police station to be located adjacent to Route 113.
Though a new station is not expected for several years, Mayor Gee Williams said that there’s a hope that the land it will sit on will be entirely paid off within two years and that contract bids and design work can also go out at that time.
“We want to obviously make sure the property is paid for before we start building on it,” he explained.
Town Administrator Tony Carson estimated that the town’s portion of paying for the station will probably be roughly within the $1 million range. Williams agreed but hedged by saying that the number is, at best, an open guess.
“Ballpark is the closest I would put to it,” he said.
While it may take a while to accumulate, Williams added that the best thing about funding for the station is that it’s not coming out of resident’s pockets. Instead, the town’s portion of the bill, which doesn’t include any possible state or federal grants, is being entirely provided by revenue the town generates through the slots at Casino at Ocean Downs.
All municipalities in Worcester receive a share of the profits generated by the slots, with even more going to the county itself. According to Williams, those returns have so far been better than expected and he believes they’re more likely to increase than drop.
“I only anticipate that they’ll go up slightly,” he said.
How the situation with the possible addition of table games go, he continued, could also potentially increase funds received by the town.
“It would only help us accelerate getting these projects done a little bit faster,” he said.
The police station is just the first of what could be a string of casino-funded projects. According to Berlin Police Department (BPD) Chief Arnold Downing, getting a second station will open up a lot of access in terms of extra space.
“Currently, we only have two jail cells,” he said.
BPD also shares conference space with other town organizations, said Downing, and encounters difficulties, due to lack of room. For example, it can be a challenge to keep adult prisoners isolated from detained juveniles, which is required. Also, limited fingerprinting facilities make it tough to conduct civilian printing and criminal printing, which can’t occur together but occasionally conflict with schedules.
“It becomes an issue of space,” said Downing.
Downing added there are always concerns with the current facility’s scant storage room and lack of an outside barrier that would marshal where officers and prisoners enter and exit as well as separating both groups from the public. The current station opens directly into a public parking lot.
Williams was quick to point out the current station has and continues to serve Berlin’s needs and the aging building has not represented any decrease in police service. However, he did admit that the present station “certainly belongs in the historic district” and that the addition of a second station will only mean good things.
Downing said a rough idea of what the new station should offer has already been developed. It is based on Berlin’s particular situation as well as observation of other town’s police resources, he said, and will be used to influence the final design, which residents can likely expect to begin taking shape within the next 18 to 24 months.