Clark looks to build new police headquarters

CLARK, NJ — Plans for a new three-story police station featuring upgrades were unveiled at the July 2 council meeting. The current station is 60 years old.

Business administrator John Laezza said that the plan is to build a new station behind the existing one on Westfield Avenue. When the new building is ready, the police will move in and the old building will be razed, he said.

Laezza said the land the old building has sat on since it was built in 1958 would then hold a parking lot for staff members and the public.
He said the new building plan will have a better heating and cooling system, bathrooms and locker rooms than the current structure, with a dispatch center on one side of the building and a records bureau on the other.

Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, who called the current building “deplorable,” said the project will likely cost between $3.5 and $4.5 million. The township has not invested much money into the existing building, whereas the new one will be constructed with expansion in mind, he said. The third floor would primarily store equipment, but could later house more officers. While there are 40 officers in the department, but the new station will be able to accommodate up to 50, the mayor said.

According to Laezza, the new jail also needs to be an upgrade from the existing one. The New Jersey Department of Corrections inspected the current jail and “gave us a report that indicated it needed a great deal of work to conform to prison standards,” Laezza said.
Police Chief Pedro Matos, who also attended the meeting, said one of the biggest issues with the building is that the heating and air conditioning units do not work properly. The issue is compounded by drafty windows.

“One of the biggest complaints in the 23 years I’ve been in that building is the heating and air condition,” Matos said. “So you can be on this side of the building and you can be freezing. Walk 30 feet to the other side of the building and, because the way the heating baseboard goes around the building, you’re burning up on that side.

“Most of the employees, especially on the first floor, who work at desks like the records clerk, the captain’s office, even the dispatcher’s room, most of the employees have little heaters that they throw underneath their desk to provide some heat in the winter because it’s pretty bad.”

Matos also said the proposed new station would also include a locker room for female officers. Currently there are no female officers in Clark.
Laezza said that before he, Bonaccorso and Matos conferred on what would be needed in a new station house, he received estimates on the cost to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to the current building. He said the cost to remodel seven bathrooms would run about $300,000; to change the windows would be about $500,000; a new heating system would run about $500,000, and would require the department to operate out of trailers during the project.

In all, it would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million to refurbish the existing station, Laezza said.
Bonaccorso said the town would pay for the new station with 20- or 30-year bonds. He said Clark pays off about $3 million a year in debt service and financing the construction through bonds would mean residents’ taxes “will not go flying through the sky.”

The mayor added that there would likely be unseen fixes ahead if the township tried to restore the existing station.
“As a lot of you know, when you open the walls on an old building and start doing renovations you usually run into unforeseen costs and repairs,” he said. “When you are at the dance and you’re dancing, you can’t complain your partner’s ugly. You have to turn around and you have to get it fixed. So, a $10,000 job becomes a $35,000 job. We can’t say, ‘Well, hold on, we’ll go out and get three bids, three quotes.’ You can’t do it that way.”