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PBA, Town at Odds Over SO Police Building

The town of South Orange and the South Orange Police Benevolent Association continue to be at odds over conditions at the South Orange police building.

Recently, PBA Local #12 President Steven Davenport contacted The Village Green with complaints about the condition of the building. Davenport proffered a video (see below) showing water dripping and seeping into the building’s basement, mold in locker rooms and on ceilings, and oozing sewage pipes.

Davenport noted that the town has done some work, ripping out lockers and repainting walls, but that the work has not stopped the continued water infiltration into the basement. Davenport is concerned that the building’s problems “need to be addressed intelligently. It can’t be spot fixes.”

“They’ve done cosmetic stuff instead of fixing the underlying issue.”

Township Administrator Barry Lewis countered that the town currently is seeking an architect to assess the building and has allocated $1.5 million for repairs in its 2015 capital budget.

Lewis said that $50,000 has been budgeted for an architect to assess the state of the building. The town has posted an RFP (request for proposals) for Architectural Consulting Services Associated With the Assessment, Recommendation, Planning, Design and Contract Administration of Repaired and Improvements to the South Orange Police Station. Responses are due September 25.

The  town also recently commissioned a comprehensive review of emergency communications and has committed money to updating police, fire and rescue squad communications systems and equipment.

Davenport also passed along an OSHA Notice of Order to Comply that was issued on August 22 after a May inspection of the police building. The order cited the town on six violations; one described as “serious” and the other violations as “other than serious.”

The serious violation read in part: “Employers and building owners are required to treat installed TSI and sprayed on and troweled on surfacing materials as asbestos contaminated material (ACM) in buildings constructed no later than 1980 for purposes of this standard…. Records were not available for review concerning the presence, location and quality of ACM and PACM for the police department building.”

Township Administrator Barry Lewis replied that the town has complied in all respects with the OSHA order. Lewis said he was present at the inspection in May and had a number of the reports that were cited as “unavailable”; however, said Lewis, the inspector did not request the reports at the time.

Lewis said that the town filed its response to the OSHA order on Sept. 23 and forwarded the response in two pdf files (see below). Village Green will follow up with OSHA to determine if the town’s response to the notice of order to comply is sufficient to avoid fines.

Lewis said that the PBA was aware of the actions being taken by the town and that the PBA’s actions in taking the issue to the press were “unfortunate.” Lewis noted that there were upcoming contract negotiations between the PBA and the town.

Davenport said that the PBA’s actions “have nothing to do with the contract,” saying that the conditions of the building are “deplorable.”

Davenport also complained that the town did not make draft versions of the ICMA/Center for Public Safety Management’s report on South Orange Police Operations available, saying they were “non-discoverable” when the PBA filed an open public records request.

The final report (which is available here on southorange.org) states, “In general, the building is in disrepair, unclean, and in poor condition,” and recommends that the SOPD develop a master plan for the headquarters facility and “strongly recommends that the SOPD and the village contract with an architectural firm to redesign the headquarters facility to address not only its poor physical condition, but to reorganize it in such a way that it supports implementation of the recommendations from this report.”

The portion of the report addressing building conditions can be found on pp. 77-79.

Davenport said, “We don’t want a new police department. We just don’t want mold and water seeping up in the locker room.”

In response to Lewis’s remarks, Davenport said that Lewis “has been saying the same thing since the first time we complained about the building, in December of 2012. Obviously, the Police Department is very low on the list priorities.”

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