Problems At Hartford Police Substation Put Focus On Public Works Response
Test of Patience
June 30, 2010
During the summer, portable air conditioners with exhaust hoses snaking up into the ceiling help keep the temperatures at the Maple Avenue police substation from reaching into the 90s — at least most of the time.
Officers routinely come in on their day off to empty water out of the units to keep them from shutting down.
In the winter, officers switch to portable heaters and routinely work in 45-degree rooms.
It's been that way at the substation for years, but officers have grown accustomed to the situation, the result of several broken heating and cooling units.
But after a car slammed through the front entrance of the building in January and caused extensive damage — much of which has yet to be repaired — the South End substation's commander is saying enough is enough.
Much of the substation's entrance is still covered with plywood. Inside, wallboard repairs have no paint. Outside, the intercom hangs uselessly from a wall and the impact of the car can be seen in shifted brickwork.
"I've been extremely patient and there's no avenue I haven't gone down to get this resolved," police Lt. Robert Allan said.
He said he understands that the city's public works department is understaffed and overworked, but he also knows that he asks a lot of his officers and that they should be able to work in an environment where two of them have developed pneumonia.
"I'm expecting my officers to give 110 percent, but I can't offer them a place to conduct their investigations that's workable," Allan said.
Kevin Burnham, Hartford's director of public works, responded that the city is in the process of hiring contractors to repair the heating and cooling units and the front entrance of the substation.
"We would certainly like to see things go quicker," he said.
City police aren't the only ones having trouble getting the attention of Burnham and the department of public works.
On Asylum Hill, a group of residents lobbied for several months to get a temporary speed bump that would slow motorists down as they passed a neighborhood school and playground. The speed bump eventually was placed on Niles Street near the West Middle School, but not before a city police captain, the school's principal, a crossing guard, Mayor Eddie A. Perez and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sent letters of support for "traffic calming" measures to Burnham.
The issue prompted Sallie Toussaint, captain of the Niles/Laurel Street Block Watch, to call on the city council to remove Burnham.
The group, Toussaint said, also has asked the city for years, without success, to install stop signs on three sides of the intersection of Niles and Laurel streets. They say the signs would reduce speeding and make it safer for cars turning onto Niles from Laurel.
Burnham said that stop signs are put in place for right-of-way issues, not speeding, and that putting them at that intersection could cause drivers to accelerate more to make up for lost time, or to ignore the signs altogether.
Burnham also said the department has addressed the speeding issue with the bump and by striping the street to make it the lanes narrower. He also said two stop signs will be put at the intersection on Niles Street "soon."
"Sometimes people get anxious about the length of the process," Burnham said.
Newly sworn-in Mayor Pedro Segarra said the city is facing a financial crisis that has caused delays and cutbacks in services.
"The challenge now becomes using the resources of the city to deal with those issues," Segarra said. "We need to improve what we're doing."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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