The Verona Police Department operates from a cramped space inside Town Hall. There are no private intake rooms for victims. There is no separate bathroom or locker room for female officers; they change in a stairwell and must go into town offices for a women’s bathroom. The ceilings in the men’s locker room are so low that the taller male officers can touch them. Officers take their breaks in a room where ammunition is stored. Now, town government seems to be exploring a solution: Build a new police headquarters, possibly on the grounds of H.B. Whitehorne Middle School.
Lisa Freschi disclosed the plan during her report for the Board of Education’s Buildings & Grounds Committee at last week’s BOE meeting. While noting that the thinking is very preliminary, she said that she and Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe had recently been given a tour of the police department so that they could see why the VPD needs a bigger space.
According to Freschi, the VPD would build on the west side of HBW’s field along Gould Street. The space is currently occupied by a basketball court and an area used by Verona High School’s track and field team for shot-put and discus. Those activities would move to the east side of the field if the building is constructed, possibly preventing an expansion of the Community Garden. The BOE would get a nominal lease payment from the VPD, as well as space in the new building for the school district’s administrative offices. Those offices are now located in the south wing of Verona High School, and moving them out would allow the district to turn that space back into classrooms.
After the BOE meeting, township officials confirmed that they are considering relocating the VPD, but cautioned that the middle school property is one of five or six locations now under consideration, and that they do not yet have a formal plan or architect’s renderings.
The discussion of the new police station begins about three-quarters of the way through the BOE meeting; you can listen to it below. The January 24 meeting also included a review of the district’s operational audit and a presentation on board ethics by the New Jersey School Boards Association.