Town Board hires architect Nelson and Pope to design new police headquarters and justice court

Southold Town officials are taking steps to turn a years-long plan of building a new police headquarters and justice court into a reality.

The Southold Town Board unanimously voted to retain the engineering, architecture and land surveying firm Nelson and Pope to develop plans for a new police headquarters and a justice court in Peconic at its March 26 meeting. The town will pay the Melville-based firm $528,000 for its services. On Tuesday, Town Supervisor Al Krupski, councilmembers Jill Doherty and Brian Mealy, police chief Martin Flatley, captain Steven Grattan, building maintenance supervisor Tim Abrams and town engineer Michael Collins met with representatives from the firm to discuss their vision for the new complex.

“What they’re doing now is working on a timeline for how the project is going to go,” Mr. Krupski said in a telephone interview following the meeting. “We have to get the property surveyed so we know exactly where things can go.”

The Town Board voted in September to purchase a 3.47-acre lot just west of the existing police headquarters for $1.4 million from Peconic resident Scott DeSimone. Ms. Doherty said the town is expected to close on the purchase next week. The new police headquarters will be built at the back of the property. Once the police department staff has moved into the new building, the departments former headquarters will be razed to make room for a justice court. Currently, all court proceedings are held at in the board’s Town Hall meeting space. On court dates, officers often have to usher handcuffed defendants through a metal detector into the meeting hall, just mere feet away from various town office spaces, including those for the assessors, the town clerk and the town supervisor.

“The town has grown tremendously and we haven’t grown our infrastructure,” Ms. Doherty said in a telephone interview Monday. “The safety of the workers and the guests at Town Hall, to me, is the driving force to update our infrastructure.”

The new, larger headquarters will allow the police department to earn official accreditation from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Among the standards the department has not previously been able to meet involve requirements for securely storing evidence and recovered property.

“There was one property room [when the building was first built] and we carved away an evidence room in the downstairs of our building,” Mr. Flatley said. The chief explained the state establishes strict standards for storing property and evidence because of “the risk involved in evidence getting tainted and [being] unavailable for trial.”

The new facility will also allow for enough space to build separate cells for male and female offenders and establish proper interrogation and interview rooms equipped with audio and video recording devices as required by law.

“Right now, if we have to interrogate somebody as part of a criminal case, we have to run them to either the [Suffolk County Police Department’s 7th precinct] or Riverhead Police Department,” Mr. Flatley said. “We don’t have [interrogation space] currently set up in our headquarters, which is a need we’re hoping to fill.”

Mr. Flatley said he has requested that the property and evidence storage spaces, holding cells and processing areas in the new headquarters be built in an area separate from the administrative side of the building, where civilian employees, including emergency response dispatchers, work.

A timeline for completing the new project, and final price tag, are still unknown.

“With the changing price of construction — and by changing, unfortunately, I mean increasing — it’s going to be hard to predict,” Mr. Krupski said.

The supervisor said the town will also tackle several smaller infrastructure upgrades in the near future, including installing an ADA compliant restroom the town’s Recreation Center in Peconic. He added that some “mechanical needs” must be addressed at Town Hall, “starting with the HVAC system.”

“These things take time,” Mr. Krupski said of the upgrade. “It’s in the works but it’s not starting tomorrow. We’re trying to get estimates and figure out the next steps … Just like on your house or any other building, infrastructure needs have to be met.”