Once upon a time, Michael's Pub at 13 Summer St. was a cozy place to have a drink.
Cozy, because the drinking establishment occupied no more than 722 square feet in a cellar.
Seven years after taking over the space beneath upstairs apartments, the former barroom is inadequate on all counts as a police headquarters for a town the size of North Brookfield, Police Chief Aram Thomasian Jr. said yesterday.
Apparently those sentiments are shared by the state Executive Office of Public Safety, which awarded the town a $200,000 grant under the Financing the Repair, Renovation and Construction of Municipal Police Stations grant program.
For Chief Thomasian, the operative word is "construction," and he sees the money as a catalyst for jump-starting the construction of a $3.1 million police station on a portion of the 5.89-acre former Aztec Industries/Asbestos Textile site, now known as the North Brookfield Downtown Development Project.
"I don't know how long we have to act on this, but I do know that if we don't put this money toward a new police station, EOPS will give it to someone else. The time is right to move forward, and building a new police station on a piece of the former Aztec property is the only option that makes sense. When you come right down to it, this is really our only option," Chief Thomasian said.
To that end, he has scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Senior Center on Forest Street to explain the proposed building project in detail to the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee and all other interested town officials.
"To begin with, we were very fortunate to not only receive this grant, but to get the maximum amount awarded to any city or town. For that we have Leah Bradley to thank. She is a member of the Capital Planning Committee and is very talented at writing grant applications," the chief said.
According to the EOPS website, Secretary Kevin M. Burke announced that 23 police departments had received grants ranging from $6,900 to $200,000.
Secretary Burke said the grant program was extremely competitive with 97 municipalities submitting applications totaling more than $25 million for the $2 million that was being disbursed.
Chief Thomasian said he was optimistic that the town's voters would be as cognizant of the need for new quarters for the town's police department as the officials at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security who measured North Brookfield's need against those of 96 other cities and towns.
"The one thing that people need to know is that this grant would only go toward the construction of a new police station. No amount of money could make this space we're in now any more appropriate for law enforcement," the chief said.
"All I can say is that we're ready to go on our end. Now it will be up to voters to decide where we go from here," he added.
Chief Thomasian said his sense is that this is a "now or never" situation, at least with respect to the $200,000 state grant.
"I don't think we'll see any more grants of this size if we don't take advantage of this one," he said.
Other cities and towns receiving the maximum grant of $200,000 were Boston, Lowell, Montague and Springfield. Other central Massachusetts communities receiving grants were Gardner, $92,500; Hopedale, $16,950; and Petersham, $131,412.
Voters at 7 tonight in the elementary school auditorium will consider a single request on the special town meeting warrant - $3.5 million for the refurbishing the historic Town House, making all levels accessible to the disabled, and thus, according to Selectman James N. Caldwell, providing sufficient office space that all town offices and officials may once again be under a single roof.
Currently town offices are spread throughout the community.