Augusta Residents to Borrow $ 20.5 Million to Build New Police Station
AUGUSTA – Residents will decide on Tuesday whether they need to borrow $ 20.5 million to build a new police station in Augusta.
The proposed new station, which would be built on Willow Street on the site of a former Hannaford supermarket, just across the Kennebec River from downtown Water Street, would replace the city’s current station, a former building of the Naval Reserve built in the 1940s, the department moved a little over two decades ago.
Officers say the current station is outdated, dilapidated and embarrassing to show visitors to the station, although Detective Sgt. Jason Côté, president of the union that represents Augusta’s 43 police officers, said that having residents see the condition of the building for themselves seems like a pretty sure way to convince them it’s time for the city to build a new police station.
“When the community members see the inside of this building and see the holes in the roof and everything else, people realize, ‘Hey, you really need this,’ and they’re totally down. ‘okay, “Cote said of the current station on Union Street.” Unfortunately, it’s embarrassing for some officers, especially because we’re so proud of our profession. A new station would help morale, with more pride, to work in a clean environment rather than having to worry, when you hear the rain, that I have to take my trash (to collect the water) because the roof is leaking.
Voting in all neighborhoods was consolidated at the Augusta Civic Center, with polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
Residents will also decide at the ballot box whether or not to approve the school budget of $ 32.64 million, approved by the school board in March and by city councilors as part of the overall budget of $ 69.4 million for the city. city and school in May.
Problems with the existing police station include its leaky roof; it does not meet current building code standards for critical installations; water cannot be consumed due to lead contamination in the pipes; bathrooms and locker rooms have rotten floors and rusty stalls; insufficient heat; security problems due to the lack of separation between public, semi-public and reserved areas; a dispatch center with no possibility of extension; no centrally located evidence storage room; and a need for secure parking.
In 2019, Chef Jared Mills gave a video tour of the current building, noting its deficiencies.
Mayor David Rollins said the city had asked experts to examine the existing station who said it would not be worth renovating the current structure, largely because it would be expensive to upgrade. current standards of a public safety building.
The new station would be built on Willow Street, where an old supermarket still standing would be demolished. The site is just across Cony Street from downtown Augusta and across from Willow Street from the Town Hall Inn, which was the home of the Police Department before it moved to the Union Street site.
The Willow Street property is currently owned by sisters through a company, JOFKAM CO., And in May, councilors allowed Bridgeo and city attorney Steve Langsdorf to begin negotiations to purchase the site, which has was listed for sale at $ 2.2 million.
Bridgeo said a valuation the city made on the property valued it at around $ 1.9 million.
Langsdorf said Thursday the city had made an offer for the Willow Street property and was awaiting a response.
There are four years left on a lease that Hannaford has with the owners for the building there. The supermarket chain had a store there before a new Hannaford was built on the hill, on the site of the old Cony High School, but does not use the building now.
City officials predict that Hannaford officials are likely willing to pay the city to opt out of the remaining time of this lease, further reducing the city’s costs to build a new station there.
Langsdorf said the city will purchase the property and receive the current, as negotiated, value of Hannaford’s lease. He said the total the city will pay after concluding the Hannaford lease will be significantly lower than the $ 1.8 million budgeted for land acquisition in the bond referendum.
The proposal submitted to voters on Tuesday would allow city officials to back $ 20.5 million to build the station. Over the 25-year payback period, at an estimated interest rate of 1.7%, interest on this bond would be approximately $ 5.2 million.
Rollins and Bridgeo said the new station can be built without raising property taxes.
This is because the city’s bond payments would start around the same time that a long-standing tax increase financing agreement, or TIF, for the Augusta market expires in 2023.
The expiration of that pact, Bridgeo said, would infuse about $ 1.8 million a year into the city’s general fund. He said it would cover more than the cost of bail payments for the police station. Bridgeo said paying off the police station’s debt would initially cost around $ 1.2 million per year.
“People aren’t going to see their property taxes go up to support this,” Rollins said.
Augusta Housing Authority Executive Director Amanda Olson has expressed interest in the authority’s acquisition of the property and building of the former police station, where the authority’s offices are located, to redevelop it into new rental housing and offices. She confirmed last week that the housing authority remains interested.
City officials and the housing authority have previously discussed a price tag of around $ 650,000 for the site.
City officials have discussed the need for a new station for years, but have had a long debate about where to build it, with some, including Rollins, initially favoring a downtown site around street corners. Laurel and Water who Rollins said would get an economic boost if a police station was built there. Others preferred that the station be built next to the existing station on Union Street. Eventually, the councilors agreed to support all of the buildings on the Willow Street site.
Côté said the Willow Street site “is very adequate. We are centralized in the city center, close to the city center, and have easy access to the east and west sides of Augusta.
He said members of the department have always received tremendous support and appreciation from residents and he is confident that the community will approve of the obligation to build a new police station.
June 12 Central Maine Police Journal