Ocean View awards contract for new police station

Though Ocean View’s town council received overwhelming support for its new police station on Tuesday and awarded the construction contract, town officials said that the floor plans of the building — but not the size — might change.

After Roy Thomas (a member of the town’s finance committee) gave a presentation, saying that the design and planning process of the new building was flawed, town officials decided to review the building’s design at a March 21 workshop.

They did so despite the fact that most of the town’s residents who spoke on Tuesday were supportive of the new police station. And even as the few residents who spoke in favor of a re-design spoke, other audience members made remarks — mostly under their breath — against revisiting the station’s design.

Council ultimately did, however, appease some of those residents by unanimously awarding the contract to Willow Construction, which offered the low bid at $1.97 million, compared to councils expectations of a bid of closer to $4 million. Still, Bill Wichmann, a town councilman and the chair of the committee that planned and designed the new station, was not thrilled with council’s decision to discuss floor plans at the workshop.

“I’m not happy,” Wichmann said. “This should have all came about in the design stage.”

Thomas and Cliff Mitchell — a fellow finance committee member who led the original charge against the station’s design — sent a letter to Mayor Gary Meredith and council on Feb. 27, addressing some of the design issues. They wrote in the letter that the proper steps had not been followed in designing the station.

Council did not draft a needs assessment or list of assumptions — which are necessary, according to Thomas, to address the needs for a new building of any kind. Thomas talked about those issues and more in his presentation to town council on Tuesday.

“My goal is to make sure that the people have a state-of-the-art building adequate to serve the people of Ocean View and at the same time maximize every dollar the town spends now and in the future,” Thomas said.

The long-time Pennsylvania businessman first questioned the size of the new building, saying the town — which now comprises about 2,300 lots — would have to annex more than additional 7,000 lots to justify adding enough officers to its current eight-member force to fill the proposed locker room.

Aside from the 25-locker locker room, Thomas questioned the proposed station’s 675-square-foot workout room and a 418-square-foot public room. About that room, he said, “I have no idea how much space is required. There is no documentation to support its purpose or function.”

Thomas also questioned the purpose of an almost 500-square-foot computer room, an extra garage for mechanical repairs and a meeting room, which is about the same size of the town hall’s meeting room.

“It is estimated that (the town hall meeting room) is not used 330 days a year and only about 60 nights a year,” Thomas said. “Are we building another room that will not be used? Why does the town need redundant facilities?”

Thomas said the police department should look to condense the station’s amenities onto only one floor and leave the second floor open for future town hall expansion. Wichmann adamantly disagreed with that proposal, saying the building would have been designed differently if it were to fit the needs of both the police and administrative departments.

So he and Ocean View Chief of Police Kenneth McLaughlin presented reasons to retain each of the questionable rooms, focusing most of their attention on the meeting room. Wichmann said that the station wants to hold seminars for the public on topics including babysitting.

But Chief McLaughlin said that he especially wanted the meeting room for emergency purposes. He said that the room, according to original designs, will be built to withstand 120 mph winds and will have hurricane-proof windows.

“This building was not constructed to withstand a storm,” Chief McLaughlin said of town hall’s meeting room. “(The new police station) is going to give us the ability to coordinate (emergency) efforts locally.”

The chief and Wichmann received support from town residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting, filling almost every seat in the town hall meeting room. Two residents did speak in favor of revisiting the design of the building, but most were more than happy to move forward with the proposed structure.

“I’m here in support of the police station,” said Frank Twardzik, a 29-year veteran of the Pennsylvania State Police Department who said he had served as a consultant to Wichmann and McLaughlin. “When councilman Wichmann came to me, I was like a silent partner.”

Karen Scarangella, a town resident since 1989, also spoke on behalf of the proposed station. “I do remember the time when we had two officers,” she said. “Sometimes, response times were nonexistent. If you’re saving $2 million, what’s the problem? Look at the school system,” added Scarangella, a mother of four children, referencing the Indian River School District’s struggle to keep up with growth in the area. “We have more children in new buildings that were planned for growth. I believe that Ocean View will grow into this facility nicely. I want my kids to be able to use this facility.”