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Ground broken on new UMPD station

Anybody who has been to Tobin Hall, the new recreation center, or somewhere in between has probably noticed a small, bare-bones brick building with an illuminated, retro-style sign that reads UMASS POLICE. This is the University of Massachusetts’ current police station, out of which a force of 62 sworn officers and 29 cadets, supported by a fleet of 20 vehicles and 16 bicycles, maintain law and order on campus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

That will be changing soon, however.

Last Friday, UMass broke ground on a brand new, $12.5 million police station. The 27,130 square-foot building will be located at 585 East Pleasant Street, across from the North Fire Station and behind Orchard Hill and at the end of the road leading past Sylvan and the North Apartments. It will be in operation 24 hours a day, and according to a press release, will provide “a home for the police department’s patrol, investigation, specialized and emergency services, as well as crime prevention and educational initiatives for the campus.”

The groundbreaking ceremony was held at 1 p.m. on Friday, with speeches given by UMass Amherst provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs James V. Staros, UMass police Chief Johnny C. Whitehead, State Rep. Christopher Donelan (D) of Orange, UMass trustee Edward W. Collins Jr. and Richard J. Lawton, a trustee and vice chairman of the UMass Building Authority. Former UMass police Chief Barbara O’Connor, who now serves as executive director of public safety at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was also present at the ceremony.

The new police station was designed by Caolo and Bieniek Associates, Inc. of Chicopee, Mass., which also renovated the Old Chapel Clock Tower and the laboratories in the Morrill science buildings. Its development started in about mid-April 2008.

“[The new police station] started out as a study with cost estimates and development,” said Jim Hanifan, the project architect, who was also present at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“Our architects are involved throughout the production process overseeing building materials, observing construction, and things like that,” continued Hanifan. “It’s expected to be completed in December 2010, and occupied at least a couple of months later.”

Chief Whitehead said when contacted by phone that the biggest benefit the new facility will provide is additional space.

“Right now we only have about 12,000 square feet of space in Dickinson to work with, and the new station will have well over 27,000,” he said. “We also have some of our services on the top floors with the classrooms.”

The police station will also provide holding cells, something that Dickinson does not have. “We can’t really house people who can’t make bail in Dickinson because there are no holding cells here,” Whitehead said.

“The new police station will also have a new dispatch center,” Whitehead continued. “We’ll host the campus-wide emergency center from there; right now it’s in a conference room in Draper.”

In addition, the new police station will be constructed with energy reduction and sustainability practices.

The lighting system, for example, will utilize occupancy sensors, energy-efficient lights, and will make use of technology to automatically adjust the lights in relation to the amount of daylight. All windows, doors, and walls will have insulated glazing systems to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat the building, and water-saving plumbing fixtures will be installed as well.

The UMass Building Authority has also set a goal to have 10 percent of the construction materials come from recycled material, with another 10 percent of construction materials originating from sources within a 500-mile-radius of the university.

Once the police station is completed, it will be registered for certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Cameron Ford can be reached at cjford@student.umass.edu.

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