New Garden gets report on permanent police station

Supervisors hear array of options, challenges for new facility 

By Kathleen Brady SheaManaging Editor, The Times

Former New Garden Township Supervisor Bob Norris (right) addresses the board as Police Chief Gerald R. Simpson, who assisted him in compiling a report on a new police facility, looks on.

Former New Garden Township Supervisor Bob Norris (right) addresses the board as Police Chief Gerald R. Simpson, who assisted him in compiling a report on a new police facility, looks on.

Whether the provisionally-housed New Garden Township Police Department remains on its own or becomes part of a regional force is one of several decisions facing the board of supervisors that could prove taxing on more than one level.

During a 45-minute presentation at Monday night’s board meeting, former supervisor Bob Norris outlined a preliminary analysis done in conjunction with Police Chief Gerald R. Simpson that provided some history and outlined the key issues. Last month, officials in New Garden and Kennett Townships and the Borough of Kennett Square each voted to authorize their departments to pursue a free feasibility study from the state on the efficacy of combining the forces. That work, which is in progress, is expected to take a couple of months.

In the meantime, Norris provided the board with a comprehensive 13-page report, supplemented with more than 30 pages of exhibits, based on visits to seven other police departments. He said that he and Simpson chose a mix that included standalone new construction, renovated buildings, add-ons to an existing municipal complex, and a regionalized operation.

“Darn soon, you have to make a decision on” whether to go regional or not, Norris said, urging the supervisors to remain open to both possibilities as they continue to try and solve a problem that dates back more than a decade. In 1998, the department was moved into a temporary modular facility, he said. Ill-suited to the department’s needs, the cramped quarters developed mold that prompted its closure in December.

The department is currently occupying another temporary, modular trailer with an 18-month lease “that will have to be extended,” Norris said. Based on projections and cost estimates from the research that he and Simpson did, Norris suggested that solving the problem in three years would represent a “quick” resolution. He advocated enlisting the services of a consultant as soon as possible to conduct a police facility needs assessment.

Norris suggested that getting advice from professionals – projected to cost about $30,000 – could help avoid costly mistakes. “The facility needs to fit the organization,” Norris said, adding that he believed 7,500 to 8,500 square feet would accommodate the department.

Once the supervisors overcome the hurdles of determining the type and location of the police station, funding will present the biggest challenge, Norris predicted. Naming rights could go to a generous benefactor, he said. Absent that possibility, he listed loans, bonds, local services tax, real estate tax, grants, and donations as possible sources, probably in combination.

Supervisors’ Chairwoman Betty Gordon called the presentation “very thorough” and thanked Norris and Simpson for the time and effort it entailed.

In other police business, the board heard from Brian Dougherty, a six-year resident of Bancroft Woods, who raised concerns about speeding vehicles on Crestview Drive in the development. “We would like something to get done before someone gets hurt,” he said, referencing all the children who play in the area.

Simpson explained that the state has a “10-mph tolerance” so that cars need to exceed 35 in the 25 mph zone to be ticketed. Simpson said a speed study done in August resulted in a low enforcement rate of 1.6 percent. “It would be good to refresh that study,” he said, suggesting that Dougherty and his wife call police when they see violations.

The police chief said he was pleased with the responses so far to a police survey designed to seek feedback from residents on a host of issues. He said he hoped residents would continue to spread the word and solicit more participation. To access the survey, visit

Plans to use some of the airport property as a firing range for police training are moving forward, Simpson said. He said chiefs in Oxford, Parkesburg and Kennett Square are all committed to supplying equipment and manpower in exchange for being able to use the range. “There is a benefit to having the ability to do this training in our back yard,” Simpson said, explaining that it greatly reduces travel time for officers.

In other business, the supervisors voted 4 to 1 to increase sewer rates, a hike that will go into effect in July. Interim Township Manager Spencer J. Andress said that the base rate would go up $8 a quarter and that the increase was needed to cover township costs. Supervisor Patrick Little cast the dissenting vote.

The supervisors expressed gratitude for the police work that led to the successful prosecution of two men who cost the township nearly $4,000 in storm grate thefts. A letter from the District Attorney’s Office said the men had been ordered to pay $3,820 in restitution to the township. “It may take a while,” Simpson warned.

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