Scrub it

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In April 1993, Tisbury voters took leave of their senses and approved a request for $988,000 to build a new police/ambulance facility at the head of the town’s Water Street parking lot. In retrospect, it is difficult to understand why Tisbury Police Chief John McCarthy went along with a location from which emergency vehicles would have to navigate through Stop and Shop customers, Steamship Authority traffic, and wandering tourists, or why voters acquiesced to the choice.

The certificate of occupancy was issued on Oct. 1, 1997. It is doubtful there is an uglier, more impersonal municipal building on the Island. The downstairs entrance has all the charm of a parking garage stairwell, which is what it resembles. Visitors who wish to find a human must walk one flight up to a foyer with the character of a Greyhound bus station waiting room.

Last week, we learned that the building has mold and water problems (Sept. 24, “Tisbury Police Department building afflicted by mold, dirt”) and that the true extent of those mold problems may be hidden from sight behind walls.

Nauset Environmental Services (NES) of Orleans, in a 27-page report dated Sept. 1, outlined the extent of the mold, moisture, and housekeeping problems in the Tisbury Police Department building.

NES president and senior scientist William M. Vaughan, who inspected the building on August 26, wrote, “This mold/moisture inspection by NES found several areas of damp, water-impacted walls in the office areas, calling for cautious water-damage response since there is the possibility of hidden mold growth in the damp wall cavities.”

Clearly, the report only scratches the surface. Further examination is needed to protect the health and well-being of town employees who work in the building and of visitors.

The report also noted a lack of general housekeeping, including a failure to change building air filters. NES said that when questioned, the cleaning staff “indicated that even though they are supplied with a HEPA-filtered vacuum, its HEPA filter had not been replaced in a couple of years.”

How is that possible? Where is the accountability? Town leaders ought to demand an answer, and make sure proper protocols — as if one needs a protocol to know to change a filthy air filter — are in place.

The report noted water damage to ceiling tiles, dirty air grates, and an “old, deteriorated carpet in reception area potentially contributing to high debris reading in air sample.”

It said leaks need to be addressed, grates need to be cleaned, air filters need to be replaced, and the reception-area carpet needs to be replaced, as well as general housekeeping “to keep on top of irritation conditions in the building.”

Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande said it’s an ongoing process, but the issues are being addressed. Let’s hope so.

The larger issue that needs to be addressed is the future of the building.

In August 2012, the Tisbury Ambulance Service moved into the new Emergency Services Facility on West Spring Street, across from the Tisbury School. The fire department followed, and for the first time, the town’s fire, ambulance/emergency medical services, and emergency management departments are all under one roof.

The police department building was built to accommodate two departments. With the departure of the ambulance service, the two-story building is now home to an approximately 12-person department. At any given time, four officers may be present on a shift. The building is larger than one small department needs.

Tisbury is not big geographically. A station located almost anywhere else in town would provide easier access than the current location.

Not that long ago, the planning board recommended moving the police department out of the downtown area but maintaining a small police presence, perhaps at a desk within the Steamship Authority terminal. The idea was that the police department building could then be leased or sold.

It is time to recognize the mistake made when the building was built, and reopen the discussion in earnest.