On Feb. 27, Cliff Mitchell and Roy Thomas — members of Ocean View’s Long Range Financial Planning Committee — sent a letter to the mayor and council, asking, among other things, to postpone awarding a construction contract for the new police station.
Thomas said that the town was irresponsible in planning the proposed 15,000 square foot station and it needs to rethink whether it needs all of the amenities inside. He will make a presentation to town officials at the town council meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at town hall.
“We are very much in favor of a new police station for the Town of Ocean View,” Mitchell and Thomas wrote in the letter. “The old building was totally inadequate and the temporary facility is no substitute. However, we are very concerned about the process that was used in determining the size and design layout of the proposed police station.”
Thomas said that he is especially concerned that the town did not put together a needs assessment document or a list of assumptions to plan for the building. Those would document why the town needed such a large station and they are two integral processes in planning for a new building, said the former Pennsylvania businessman.
Ocean View’s Chief of Police Kenneth McLaughlin said that he asked the council to hire a professional to perform a needs assessment in the planning stages of the building but they voted 5-0 to deny his request, citing the substantial cost involved.
Council voted to draw up a needs assessment itself but that never happened, he added.
“I understand where Mr. Thomas is coming from,” Chief McLaughlin said. “It’s a shame we don’t have that document. I think it would be a good thing to have for this reason.’
Ocean View Mayor Gary Meredith said it was the cost involved that prompted council to deny the chief’s request. He added that he doesn’t think that having that sort of document would have made any difference in the planning or design process for the proposed station.
“We’re all volunteers and we’re short staffed,” Meredith said, adding that a needs assessment would have taken a substantial amount of money to put together.
In the letter sent late last month, Thomas and Mitchell requested that council delay awarding the contract for thirty days and put a detailed list of assumptions together and a description of how the proposed design meets those needs.
The letter also asks that council publish those lists by March 14 and hold a public forum to hear citizenry concerns before awarding a contract. Meredith said that, at this point, he is against holding a public forum on the issue, saying that town residents had ample opportunities to comment in the design and planning stages of the building. After taking the bids last month, the council only had 30 days to award a contract and they had planned on — and still might — awarding the contract on Tuesday.
“I would have been for a public forum two years ago but not now,” Meredith said, adding that the town might have to reopen the bid process if it delayed the release the contract. “It’s late in the game.”
Thomas said that he and Mitchell had sent the letter because they are concerned that the proposed building does not fit its community. The upstairs locker room, for example, provides space for 25 officers. For the town to bring in enough tax dollars to support the hires of 13 more officers beyond the current eight — assuming that all three town departments grow at the same rate — it would have to annex more than 7,000 new lots, Thomas said. The town currently has only about 2,300 lots and room remaining for 500 new homes. Also, the garage downstairs is unnecessary, Thomas added. Minor repairs can be performed in the separate garage which used to deliver and process suspected criminals, he said. Although Thomas noted that it is late in the process to change the plans, he said that the police department could only use the 7,500 square foot ground floor and have a stand-out station. The upstairs could remain, he added, for future town hall expansion. But he and Mitchell agree that something has to happen, saying that the town acted irresponsibly in planning and designing the proposed station.
“I may be wrong but I have no place to go and find out if I’m wrong,” Thomas said, adding that the appropriate documents are missing. “Town Council has a tremendous responsibility and they failed the citizens.”