Dozens of residents near St. Mary's Church voiced opposition Wednesday night to the town building a new police station on town-owned land located at what's called the former St. Mary's parking lot.
One by one, seniors from O'Neil Drive, current residents around the site, and soon-to-be neighbors of the proposed station agreed that the department needed to move out of its outdated building in Dedham Square, but disagreed that the High Street location was the best one in Dedham.
"I know this police department needs a police station. They needed it when they built that building they have now," said neighbor Dominic DeVirgilio. "It was a dilapidated building when they built it."
Members of the Building, Planning and Construction Committee stressed that they are at the beginning stages of planning a police station, and haven't performed traffic studies, created drawings or any other steps. This was just the third time the BPCC had met publicly to discuss the police station, but they wanted to include the public as early in the process as they could to garner feedback, officials said.
"This is not a done deal," BPCC member and selectman Carmen Dello Iacono said several times. "We want to hear [input]. We are coming to the neighbors to find out if this is attractive, if it is something that will fit in."
The committee had looked at other properties in town - and has studied and surveyed spaces for a new station for more than 15 years, officials said, and the High Street location topped the list because it is zoned for municipal use and is on a town-owned parcel of an appropriate size.
"I don't think the location is ideal for a police station. The road isn't wide enough," DeVirgilio said.
Residents pitched the board on several properties - town-owned and private - including the Striar Property, a field at Memorial Park, a field at the Dolan Center, a parking lot near Tahiti on Eastern Avenue, the former Avery Elementary School and the MBTA Readville Yard.
Each of which posed their own issues and problems, officials said, and several that already have specified uses.
One resident suggested state-owned land on West Street across from the Norfolk County prison, which town officials said they hadn't concerned and would investigate.
The board also ruled out a combined fire and police facility, noting that Dedham lacks the space to build such a complex, and a grand municipal building received little interest from bidders when the town put that project out to bid late last year.
"There is a challenge to every location we pick," Town Administrator William Keegan said. "The real question is how can we best address the concerns that are raised."
Neighbors will have plenty of time for input no matter what location the town picks for a new police station, officials said.
"There are no plans made. No other committees have looked at it," BPCC chairman James Sullivan said. "This is the first public meeting for this. We didn't want to have plans made and present it to a bunch of neighbors who wanted no part of it."
The BPCC tabbed the Dedham Police Department as their top priority and the next town-owned building that needed replacement. A 2011 study of the police department by an independent group called for a new building and two former police chiefs spoke at Wednesday's meeting that they've clamored for a new building for years.
"It is way overdue," former DPD Chief Michael Weir said. "Hopefully there will be a site that will be sufficient to put a police facility."
Other town residents, who live in the Manor neighborhood, said they'd welcome a new police station in their area if a suitable site existed.
"You're going to have a tough decision to make that is going to make someone unhappy in the town," Jim Maher said. "We can't wait 25 years for a police station."