AMHERST – The apparent need of the current town council to spend money on a new town hall while the needs of the town's police service remain “unmet and second rate” in the wake of a fire that destroyed the department's quarters is highly questionable, council candidate Ed Childs has charged.
Childs, a former town manager, said in a news release he suspects the mayor and council rushed to accept an insurance settlement on the destroyed structure because they have already decided to move the police to the old town hall and didn't want a renovated building.
“I assume the reasoning is that the building was fit to be renovated, the insurer was offering more than the value of a renovated building because they have made a decision to move the police to Ratchford Street, and this removes what's known as a stranded asset,” Childs said.
He said that scenario brings to mind a number of questions, including whether the amounts given by the adjusters and insurer were verified by the town; whether the building was insured for replacement value; whether it was unsafe because the adjoining wall was damaged by heat; and whether there was insurance coverage for the costs of temporary quarters and relocation?
“The right answers to these questions could save town taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
Childs also said he expects the mayor and council to provide police facilities “that fully meet today's standards and can be easily adapted for future needs.”
The former town manager said a police building is an extremely specialized structure that must be built according to specific requirements, a process that doesn't lend itself to an existing building that must be renovated.
“The idea of putting the police in an old, renovated building and splitting their operations between two buildings is an untenable solution,” Childs said, terming it “an expensive, short-term solution to a problem that will never be functionally efficient.”
He said the town's police department is composed of professional and competent officers who work under difficult circumstances at the best of times.
“To try to provide them with what will always be makeshift quarters is shameful,” the candidate admonished.
He said forcing employees who are responsible for residents' safety and well-being “isn't acceptable to me, and it shouldn't be acceptable to any responsible citizen.