South Bethany envisions a larger police building with room to work

Just starting with mockups, the South Bethany Police Department staff imagines having enough room to grow. In June, Chief Troy Crowson presented a proposal to double the size of the existing police building.

Located next to Town Hall, the police department is barely big enough for the roles it needs to play. The building needs to grow, for the safety of employees and visitors and for liability reasons, Crowson said.

The multipurpose room has too many uses to be truly useful to anyone, he argued. It’s “totally inefficient,” Crowson said of the kitchen/locker room/armory.

“We don’t eat in here because people change in here. We don’t eat in here because we have firearms and chemicals. We don’t change in here, because there’s food,” and so on.

Plus, there’s no shower, which would be nice after water rescues in South Bethany’s five miles of canals, or for officers hunkering down during three-day nor’easters.

Donated funds let the SBPD hire an architect to envision a police department expansion. The goal is to eliminate those multipurpose rooms and provide space for more efficient operations.

Crowson proposed separate rooms for evidence, the armory and for changing/showering.

Another processing room would keep perpetrators (sometimes prone to spitting or vulgar language) away from evidence, other officers or members of the public doing everyday business, such as buying parking permits. (The SBPD is not interested in lock-up cells because of liability concerns.)

A new conference room would actually have space for all police officers to train together, Crowson said.

The proposed L-shaped addition, built partially in the parking lot, isn’t meant to significantly grow the number of police officers. Only one or two new positions have been added in the last decade, Crowson said, but an expansion will give the police force room to breathe.

The cost estimate is $199,100. The police department can already use a $50,000 donation and possibly two Sussex County police grants equaling another $50,000. Otherwise, there’s not much grant money available for a municipality just adding another building, officials noted.

The discussion was just the beginning of a long process to determine what the Town needs and can afford. The police department will continue providing updates at future town council meetings.