Taunton preparing for special election of proposed public safety complex

TAUNTON, Mass. (WLNE) — A new public safety complex is in the works in Taunton that would replace current police and fire buildings in the city that has been deteriorating for years.

“We’ve outgrown the facilities we’re in. The police station was in right now was supposed to be a temporary facility for 18 months, we’ve been there for 18 years,” Taunton police chief Edward Walsh said.

In a tour of the current police department and central fire station, we were shown the tight quarters they deal with.

Forced to use break rooms as meeting spaces and extra storage in the basement.

The current facilities also have a limited number of jail cells, which poses a significant issue for the city in case of making several arrests at night, as it has just two female cells and one for juveniles, and they all must be separated from each other.

“I’m at the point where I’m renting space or leasing space from other facilities because I have no space in my offices. I can’t hold a good-sized meeting in my station because it’s small,” Walsh said.

The proposed $79 million public safety complex is up for a vote in a special election on April 29. Taunton residents will be able to decide if the project will progress to its next steps and get under construction.

So far, Mayor Shaunna O’Connell said they have secured $11 million for the project, but most of the rest will be paid by the taxpayers.

If passed, O’Connell said the city will look to award bids for construction in the summer and look to break ground by the spring of 2024. From there, the project will aim to be fully completed within 2 to 3 years.

“The last time we built a fire station was when Teddy Roosevelt was in office, and when about one percent of households had plumbing and electric,” Mayor O’Connell said.

At the Central Fire Station, the inside is dealing with deteriorating walls and ceilings, as well as broken windows and very limited space with a limited number of beds are just some of the issues firefighters deal with now.

“[It will be] more equipped for our guys to operate more efficiently and safely,” said fire chief Timothy Bradshaw. “More storage for trucks and dedicated mechanic space. Right now our mechanic works out of a bay we would run a truck out of.”

Over the next few weeks, the city’s police and fire chiefs will host several informational sessions and tours of the facilities, including one Monday, March 13 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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