A Tuesday-night workshop in Ocean View town hall proved to be the site of yet another argument about the town’s proposed 15,000-square-foot police station, which was approved by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission on March 16.
The only differences on Tuesday were: (1) that more people argued against the station’s design, and (2) town officials, in the end, decided to throw out any issues and move forward with the original plan.
“I think we’re building a Cadillac and it’s worth it,” said Mayor Gary Meredith, saying that even the opposition can’t say for sure that the town won’t grow into the station, which is by all accounts bigger than what Ocean View currently needs.
Mary Mitchell — the wife of Cliff Mitchell, a member of the town’s finance committee who led the original charge against the design — spoke first on Tuesday against the station.
She said that the station was too big for the current eight-officer force, and it was even too big for a 20-officer force. She cited the similarly-sized Anne Arundel County, Md., station that houses more than 100 officers. Mary Mitchell said that the computer and workout rooms on the second floor should be moved to one side, and the other side — which she said has a separate stairwell — should be left open for future expansion. Councilman Bill Wichmann, who chaired the committee that designed the building, said committee moved the workout room because they didn’t want it to sit directly above the meeting room. The noise caused, Wichmann added, would bother people in the meeting room.
Still, Mary Mitchell said, “I’ve been very puzzled by some of the numbers. Something about this doesn’t line up.”
George Pickrell (a 26-year former Montgomery County, Md., police officer) agreed with Mary Mitchell. He said that the county station in which he worked was about the same size as the proposed Ocean View station but, like the Anne Arundel station, housed more than 100 officers.
“This is like a county station,” Pickrell said. “I just don’t see that much space needed. The downstairs facility is plenty for 20, even 40 years,” he added.
Mary Mitchell also revisited the fact on Tuesday that the town didn’t perform a professional “needs assessment” of the building, which would have explained what needs each room of the building would address for the town.
She said that she had talked to officials from Kaestle Boos Associates — a 40-year-old Connecticut company specializing in architectural design — who said they would perform a needs assessment free of charge.
But Wichmann and the rest of town officials brushed the idea aside, though, noting that they didn’t want to revisit the station’s beginning stages and they didn’t think an adequate assessment could be performed over the phone.
“Are you going to start all over?” responded Wichmann, who chaired the committee which planned and designed the new station. “It’s never going to work.”
So, instead, the conversation centered on the weight room. Some thought it was unnecessary because it wouldn’t be used. Others said that Ocean View officers would only use a gym if it was on-site. And others just seemed dumbfounded that the weight room was part of the conversation.
“I can’t believe we’re talking about a weight room for our officers,” said Karen Scarangella, disbelieving that it was even a concern for opponents. She said that prisoners have a weight room in prison, so why shouldn’t Ocean View’s policeman have one in a new station? “I want my officers to be big, strong and tough,” she said. ”They’re getting spit on, urinated on and kicked.”
Sgt. Heath Hall of the Ocean View department — filling in for Chief Ken McLaughlin — also spoke in favor of the weight room remaining in the design plans, while Pickrell and town resident George Walter questioned whether it would be used on a regular basis.
“I’d be willing to bet that most officers would work out before or after their shift,” Hall said.
Talk of the weight room subsided when Councilman Wade Spanutius said that everyone at the meeting had wasted more than an hour talking about the weight room in a 15,000-foot-station.
And with that — to the displeasure of some and pleasure of others — town officials announced that it would build with the original design plans, despite the lengthy discussion.
Meredith (who has opposed combining the administrative and public safety departments in a single building) and other town officials seemed to agree with a statement made earlier in the night by town resident Vincent Esposito.
“Extra space is not like fish,” Esposito said. “It doesn’t go bad. Don’t miss the opportunity.”