Ocean View accepts police station plans

It was a night for the Citizens Auxiliary Patrol (CAP), and to review plans for a soon-to-be 15,000 square foot police station, at the Aug. 2 Ocean View Town Council meeting.
Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin came forward to recognize the gang of uniformed CAP members with a proclamation.

Whereas they’d received training in various areas (emergency response, CPR, etc.) and whereas they’d helped out with traffic control, security patrols and various functions, they earned a formal recognition for their civic service.

The CAP members filed back to their seats, but McLaughlin quickly returned to the head of the room to detail some of the features of the new police station.

The Bear Trap community has donated a piece of land to the town, just east of Bear Trap on Central Avenue (near the driving range). Ocean View plans to build the two-story police station at that location.

As McLaughlin pointed out, the visitors’ lobby would face south, away from Central Avenue. The plans show a reception area at the right side of the lobby, shielded by “bulletproof, attack-resistant materials,” as he described them. Moving toward the center of the building, one would pass through (1) a “soft interview” room, where visitors could file reports, down an administrative corridor past an office for the chief, and a sergeant’s office.

Adjacent the corridor, McLaughlin noted a community/meeting room. He said he’d been working with Sussex County Emergency Medical Services (SCEMS) Director Joe Thomas on the designs for that space, which could become a local Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in time of need. At other times, the department would likely use that area for training purposes.

Deeper, the “squad room,” officer workstations, a break room, offices for a supervisor and detective, and a two-room evidence/processing station with a “pass-through” locker system.

In addition, McLaughlin pointed out a garage area, where officers could perform routine or minor vehicle repairs, a small indoor K-9 kennel and a gun-cleaning station.

And, of course, the prisoner processing area. McLaughlin said the entire first floor had been designed around it, from the “sally port” where officers transfer prisoners from the patrol cars in a drive-in, garage-type setting, sheltered from average citizens.

The existing police station is right across the street from West Park, within earshot of families and children on the playground equipment. As McLaughlin later pointed out, it was a less than ideal location for handling irate suspects.

“People don’t realize how inadequate our current facility is,” McLaughlin said. “And it has been, for quite some time.” He expected the first floor of the proposed police station would meet, but not exceed, current needs.

McLaughlin said they’d designed the new station with room to safely restrain 15 prisoners at one time. Sounds like a crowd, but he said they’d hosted as many as nine at one time at the current facility (with maybe half of those suspects locked up in squad cars, in the parking lot).

There issues besides limited space — the wood and carpet of the old police station offered porous surfaces, difficult to clean even with bleach, McLaughlin pointed out. And hepatitis could survive in the open air — in a drop of blood, say — for more than four days.

Any officers who happened to touch that blood and then touch their eyes ran a risk of infection, he said.

Moving to industry-standard construction at the new facility would lower risks — and liability costs, McLaughlin pointed out.

Council Member Bill Wichmann outlined a few details on the second floor, including oversized lockers that could accommodate the officers’ bulletproof vests and a room that could be used for the CAP.

Much of the second story area remained vacant, Wichmann pointed out — they’d designed the station to accommodate growth over at least a 40-year period.

Also, as McLaughlin noted, they’d come to realize that a large second floor didn’t cost much more than a small second floor, so they’d squared out to match the first floor footprint.

Some debate ensued regarding Wichmann’s push for authorization of a bid package, which would have been based on the presented plans.

In the end, Council Member Norm Amendt called the question, but he and Wichmann stood alone in support and the motion failed 3-2.

Council Member Eric Magill said he didn’t have any problems with the floor plan, but felt uncomfortable authorizing a bid package that was still missing a few elements.

For instance, council still hadn’t seen a site plan, although Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader suggested contract administration, dispute resolution, issues associated with performance bonds and areas that would need to be subcontracted to specialists would likely become issues of greater concern than any drawing.

Magill moved to include the plans as presented in what is likely to become a finalized bid package in short order, and although Council Member Wade Spanutius had suggested hurricane glass for the windows might be overkill, that motion passed unanimously.

Earlier in the meeting, council unanimously approved, and thereby enacted, three ordinances.

• An ordinance to put some teeth in restrictions on permitted hours for construction work, by creating a $1,000 fine for each and every violation, even if they might occur in the same day. After the third violation, the offending workers would lose their business license as well.

• An ordinance to institute a modest increase in building permit fees, from 20 cents per square foot to 25 cents per square foot.

• An ordinance to add a new conditional use — “establishments engaged in the sale of alcoholic liquor, beer, wines and spirits for off premises consumption.”