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Location Essential Should Town Pursue Safety Complex

Police and fire chiefs spoke with Selectmen on Jan. 7 to discuss a combined building.

While Salem emergency management officials have few issues with the concept of a public safety complex, Salem Fire Chief Kevin Breen said on Jan. 7 that a proper location is essential to maintain his department's efficiency.

"Geographic location is everything for us," Breen said, explaining that the town would not want to "further exacerbate" response times to the farthest-reaching roads.

Breen said that unknowns such as what will happen with the Rockingham Park racetrack property will also dictate town needs.

"Whatever that use is will help drive what you need for public safety facilities in that area of town," he said.

Breen added that 60 percent of Salem Fire responses occur west of Route 28, meaning that if anything is moved east, response time to incidents will increase.

But should a proper location be found, Breen said that he would support the complex concept.

Selectmen yanked $75,000 allocated in the Capital Improvement Plan for 2014 related to an engineering study for a new police department. Another $8.6 million alotted in 2016 for the station construction was also removed.

Before removing the CIP items, most of the Selectmen gave general support for the safety complex idea.

Selectman Jim Keller said he would be happy to be part of a working group with town staff to get the ball rolling on the idea.

Fellow board member Everett McBride Jr. said that three times the town has tried to pass a new police station only to see voters decline all of the proposals.

"I think the people are ready for a combined police/fire/public safety (complex)," he said. "I think we've garnered a lot more support. I think that would be more cost effective."

Police Chief Paul Donovan stressed that the safety complex is more of a "campus" design, where the two departments are typically divided by a wall.

"You can make (safety complexes) work, the functions of both agencies are just totally different," Donovan said.

There's nothing in it that I think can't be overcome," he added about the idea. "It's just knowing what we want to do."

Breen also stressed that neither the police nor the fire facilities have appropriate dispatch centers that are built for the information technology service of the last 15 years.

Salem saw a fire project in 2005, when the North Salem station was opened it was prioritized through the CIP process. The town operates three stations staffed by a total of 15 personnel per shift.

During a Dec. 3 Selectmen meeting, Town Manager Keith Hickey said that a safety complex project would take two years.

taxpayer January 08, 2013 at 02:46 PM
A combined facility would allow for a combined police/fire dispatch center. That should be mandatory. That would save the town quite a bit of money in the long run. I wonder if either chief will support it though because it means you would be able to reduce personnel needed to operate.
Donna Donahue January 08, 2013 at 03:55 PM
I like the idea and think the old Coca Cola plant would be an ideal location!!
David McMenemy January 08, 2013 at 04:18 PM
If it was put where the police station is now they could move the south fire station to the west side of town without adding another station.
Riley Reid January 08, 2013 at 04:18 PM
I've always said the Coca Cola plant would be a great spot. You have frontage on 28 and also access to Church ST to get to Main ST without going through the depot. As far as combining the dispatch centers, I think those are two completely different kinds of job and may not be as easy as some people think.
Maureen Mulledy Hanlon January 08, 2013 at 10:42 PM
I think they need a new high shcool before they build a multimillion dollar safety complex...

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