The project will convert a roll-call and supervisor locker area into a separately accessed women’s bathroom, shower and locker area. Women officers and employees of the department use a locker area in a converted janitor’s closet and utilize a unisex bathroom accessed through the men’s locker room.
The bizarre configurations of the facilities has caused increasing grumbles among the department’s growing number of women, as it rightly should. Most all public facilities took woman in the workplace into consideration at some point in the last half-century.
“We thought the shower was important because if female officers came off the street contaminated with pepper spray or hazardous materials, they could have a place to go to clean up without taking that stuff home,” said Assistant Police Chief Chris Cole, more than 35 years after Sandy Arpei won a court battle to become the department’s first female officer.
Yes, issues of gender-equal facilities were too far-fetched for the Saratoga Springs Police until this month. Though department heads could find grant money for just about every far-fetched law enforcing device -cash for everything from license plate readers to high-tech spy camera systems -they can’t seem to find any funding to rehab the old police station. Perhaps that’s because they’re not looking.
Even before the state suit was filed last fall, building a new public safety facility became a veritable mantra among Kim and Police Chief Ed Moore. After the suit surfaced, both Moore and Kim took a ‘told you so’ attitude toward what was then the proposed $17 million plan to build a police and court facility nearly four times the size of the Lake Avenue department.
“I have the same opinion they do,” Moore told the Daily Gazette in November.
In that case, Moore must not be a very opinionated guy. He hasn’t lifted a finger to investigate better circumstances for his female workers since becoming chief in June 2003, with exception to stumping for an unrealistic station most taxpayers can’t afford.
There’s no doubt Moore and his predecessor have held out on any renovations in the hope of securing a new facility, allowing their old one to literally crumble into the ground. In wake of the discrimination suite, the circumstances there almost grew dire enough to force a knee-jerk reaction from the city council into building a new station.
But some action needed to be taken with an April hearing in the case looming and no marked progress with the new station. So in addition to funding the plan for a new station, taxpayers will fund a necessary renovation of the old one. Kim downplayed the cost, but declined to discuss how much materials and the in-house labor would run. However, he did take the opportunity to roll out some corny metaphors in support for his unrealistic castle.
“We can continue to put a Band-Aid on a gaping gunshot wound, but at some point we have to do something more dramatic to make sure the patient lives,” he told the Times Union reporter.
Ironically, this same reporter did a story about another Saratoga County police department, which was experiencing problems that sound vaguely familiar. In 2003, Mechanicville’s police station was suffering from “hazardous building materials, falling tiles, corroded floor tiles, no bullet-proof window protection, a rodent invasion, a locker room with no ventilation and lack of space.”
Remarkably, these problems were rectified the within a year and without the $800,000 grant initially requested by the department. In fact, the work was done with $25,000 from the city council and by employing a local contractor. Once completed, the renovations made a believer out of Police Chief Joseph Waldron, who had initially stumped for a new facility.
“I bet you we have added over 1,000 square feet of space here by just tearing down bearing walls,” he said in 2004. “It was like an empty shell. We emptied everything and made it into something.”
So now that renovations are imminent, perhaps city officials can again revisit a full overhaul of the existing police station instead of the senseless project to build a new one. And maybe -just maybe -they can also see for once that things can indeed get done without filling up a room at City Hall with overpriced blue prints.