BRATTLEBORO >> Friday morning, Vermont State Police troopers lined up and the flag was lowered, signifying a respectful farewell to the 464 Marlboro Road location.
After about 40 or more years of familiarity at the Brattleboro location, troopers, dispatchers and administrators will move a new space just off Exit 5 in Westminster where it will consolidate with the Rockingham barracks. For some, the old space has sentimental value as it is where individuals jump-started their careers. But despite the challenges of change, many troopers are excited about the features of new $6.2-million, 16,000-square-foot State Police barracks on Westminster Heights Road.
"A lot of things about this new building get us excited. For one, all our new buildings are enclosed with fencing so they're much more secure for our employees or if someone seizes a vehicle from a crash as evidence, it's much more secure than our current makeshift cage," said Vermont State Police Captain Rick Hopkins, commander of all troopers in southern Vermont. "It's also a state of the art dispatch center. I'm not a dispatcher, but they are very excited because each work station is adjustable and has its own individual heat."
The move will be done in stages, and the plan is to have all of the Brattleboro troopers at the new location, ready to go by Monday, July 18. Then on Wednesday, the Rockingham troopers will join and by Tuesday, dispatch settles in and the new VSP site will be fully operational.
Hopkins noted that dispatch is the most complex aspect of the move because dispatch will run in Rockingham from Monday, July 25, straight through the morning of that Tuesday. And even though there will be some juggling around in preparation for opening, Hopkins says troopers will continue to serve per usual.
"We're in a business where we don't take a week off to move things," said Hopkins.
The decision to move and consolidate came after more than nine years of searching for the right site, planning and negotiating a land deal before the state moved forward with the plan to construct. The plan goes back to 2007 when state officials began to look for alternate sites along the I-91 corridor and a location near Exit 5 was determined to be the most likely candidate for the new barracks.
However the idea of moving to a consolidated barracks is not a new idea for stations across the state, but rather Brattleboro is following in the footprint of other barracks and Hopkins said Brattleboro was "too small to begin with." Another reason noted for the move was due to flexibility troopers have with technology, which allows for dispatch over longer distances and basically everything a trooper can do at their desk can be done within a cruiser. A trooper's mobile data computers can access a records management system and perform research and more from a vehicle.
"The need to be at a barracks doesn't really exist as much; they need to go there to process people that they've arrested, to process or store evidence and for comfort if they have to sit down and write reports for several hours," said Hopkins.
However he did mention other needs for a physical space such as for dispatch, storage of files and for administration. Over the years troopers have had to go back and forth between their work space and the basement, where their files are stored. The new space offers an organized and large central space for files. Hopkins also expressed excitement around more space in general as there was a 12-by-12 space at the Brattleboro location that held four detectives at once. Everyone will also have their own desk.
According to Hopkins, the Brattleboro Barracks team won't be bringing much with them aside from supplies and paperwork. The Vermont Correctional Industries makes custom furniture and such for correctional facilities. With that said the Brattleboro/Rockingham barracks will have all new furnishings and more.
In addition, there was much excitement expressed for the new evidence room and system. The archaic system calls for handwritten evidence cards, but the new one includes barcode stations, where a barcode is created for each evidence item. The trooper then places the item of evidence in a pass-through cubby that goes from the hallway to the evidence room, where the evidence officer scans the barcode like someone would at the grocery store. Then the evidence officer decides where to place the item based on the trooper and the size of the object. Finally that information is stored in a data system that can be retrieved at any time.
Aside from technological adjustments given the move, there will also be a change in command structure. There used to be two station commanders, one in Brattleboro and another in Rockingham, but six weeks ago the former Brattleboro commander, Paul Favreau was moved to another job with the drug task force, and Timothy Oliver took over both commands.
"The main plus is instead of having a barracks down in West Brattleboro and one up in Rockingham, it's consolidated in the middle, so it could potentially mean we have a little bit more response time," said Oliver. "But my plan to combat that is to have troopers on the road more with their mobile data computers, and be able to be in the field and dispatched from their cruisers instead of being anchored to a building."
Oliver further noted that each trooper will be assigned to a patrol area and will be expected to respond accordingly. He said he believes this will allow for increased regional response and VSP visibility in the community, especially in remote areas, mentioning Wardsboro, Londonderry and Peru.
In addition to command changes, Brattleboro VSP also reduced the number of sergeants. Hopkins said no one was fired from any position but rather transferred through VSP elsewhere in places with needs for sergeants such as Royalton and New Haven.
Hopkins emphasized that though there will be a physical change, the amount of community policing to the Brattleboro area will not decrease.
"I really just want people to know they should see no change in service, in fact in some ways we hope it will be more efficient and we can give better service, that's he main reason we exist, to take care of public safety issues in the community," said Hopkins.
The Brattleboro VSP dispatch number will be in use until Monday and then VSP will send out a press release with the new telephone number. In case of difficulties, call 9-1-1.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275