Voters to decide on new Coventry police HQ project

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — A basement is where a relative, down on his or her luck, might live while looking for a new job.

In Coventry, it’s the home of the police department.

Col. John MacDonald, the department’s chief, said the building they’re currently housed in — built as a town hall — is almost 75 years old. If voters pass Ballot Question 8 in the town, an entirely new purpose-built home would be constructed at the Coventry Human Services Complex. That building — which currently houses the senior center, town shelter and more — would also be renovated.

“It’s not exactly what you’d say is a modern facility,” said Col. MacDonald Thursday morning. When Eyewitness News visited, paint was peeling from ceilings due to water damage, utility panel wiring in back rooms was jumbled, and one employee who needed to use two laptop computers had to huddle with one of them on her lap in a cramped closet of an office.

A Coventry Police employee shows off her cramped office.
Domestic violence advocate Brooke shows off her cramped office.

Beat officers themselves only get a narrow locker in a cramped room. “When an officer comes in, this is his office — or her office… This is where they have to keep all their gear, everything, boots, vests, bags — It’s not enough space, clearly.

“Our ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance isn’t there, it leaks, we have roof issues, HVAC, almost every issue you could name with a building,” the chief added.

Besides not being accessible for people with wheelchairs or walkers, being below ground is not secure or safe for bringing in prisoners. “One of our officers fell down these stairs with a prisoner one time,” Col. MacDonald said. “He never came back to the job.”

The proposed new station project would cost $12 million.

The average taxpayer owning a $250,000 home would face a minimal impact, Col. MacDonald said: about $2.50 a month over two years.

Col. MacDonald descends the stairs to his department's headquarters.
Col. MacDonald descends the stairs to his department’s headquarters.

“We don’t pretend that it won’t possibly cause a tax increase,” he said. “But it’s well worth the investment in the town.”

Construction would be completed in two phases and would begin in the spring of 2017.

For those looking to learn more, an informational meeting will be held next Wednesday at 6 p.m. at VFW Post 9404 on South Main Street and a second meeting is tentatively scheduled for next Thursday at the Western Coventry Fire District.