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Deerfield officials again push for safety complex

Union Leader Correspondent

February 07. 2013 10:54PM

DEERFIELD - Safety officials have been making their case in recent months for a brand-new $2.4 million joint safety complex, saying their current facilities are woefully insufficient.

Voters have been asked to approve such a complex four times in the past.

"It's desperately needed," said town administrator Leslie Boswak. "They're trying to get the message out to the voters of the safety issues (with their current facilities)."

The new complex, which would house the town's fire and police departments, would be built on a town-owned 11 acre plot on Route 107 near the intersection of Route 43. Safety officials favor the site as an area with limited pedestrian traffic, quick road access and close proximity the Deerfield Community School.

The fire department is currently located in the village area of town on 6 Church St. The area sees traffic coming in multiple directions for the library, the business center, apartments, residential areas and churches.

"Old Home Day, for instance, can be so congested," said Boswak. "Trying to leave the station for an emergency call is problematic. They share a very, very small parking lot with the library, and continually the fire department's doors will open, and there's the truck, ready to go, and a patron to the library is literally turning around in the front of the bay doors. It's a dangerous situation."

Deerfield Fire Chief Mark Tibbetts, one of the key advocates for the complex, has argued that this not only hinders emergency response but also increases the risk of accidents.

Deerfield police currently share a building with the town offices on 8 Raymond Road. Similar issues have been raised about the location's traffic conditions.

Parks and Recreation programs and Yanni's Pizza Place, which operates out of back of the building, produce pedestrian and vehicular traffic they argue can delay response times and create an accident risk.

"They're competing with this really dangerous intersection," said Boswak.

Of greater concern to Police Chief Mike Greeley, however, are the problems of safety and confidentiality inherent in conducting police work and civilian town work in the same space.

Greeley spoke at the town's Feb. 2 deliberative session on the awkwardness and liabilities of the current situation. Currently, police must cart suspects, evidence, even firearms and ammunition past residents inside the Town Hall. Even taking a prisoner to the restroom can become problematic under the current arrangement, as it produces further exposure to the general public, exposure which could become dangerous should the prisoner seize an opportunity to create a disturbance or escape.

The building also lacks a "sally port," or secured entryway, for the loading or unloading of prisoners.

Equally troubling to Greeley is the fact that under federal law, juvenile prisoners must be isolated from adult prisoners and their arrests remain confidential. It is a law with which the current facility does not allow the department to be in full compliance.

Deerfield police have no separate holding facility for juvenile prisoners, as the law requires, and the lack of a sally port means all prisoners, adult and juvenile alike, are brought in and out through public areas.

The new safety complex would also include meeting and radio rooms, and would house animal control and rescue and the emergency management committee.

The warrant will go up for a vote at the town election on March 12 at the Town Hall on 10 Church Street. The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.



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