Select Board balks at price of moving Police Department to Town Hall

Mar 16, 2023

A price estimate of over $44 million for converting Town Hall into a new police station has derailed Town Administrator Derek Sullivan’s plan for a three-way shuffling of town buildings.

According to Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside, “no formal decisions” have been made for the location of the new police station.

The fates of the other buildings involved in the shuffle — the Decas School and the Multi-Service Center — are unknown. 

“Everything is still on hold,” Whiteside said. 

The Select Board, the Police Building Study Committee and the Public Safety Complex Study Committee discussed options for housing a new police station during a joint meeting on Thursday, March 16.

The two committees have spent the last few years looking for a new home for the Police Department.

Since the 1980s, the Police Department has dealt with cramped conditions and a lack of storage at its current location on Cranberry Highway.

Meanwhile, a citizens group had been advocating to make the now-vacant Decas School into a community center that would also house the town’s Council on Aging Senior Center.

In an effort to save money while satisfying several needs, Sullivan and the Select Board decided to renovate Town Hall to house the Police Department in August 2022.

Sullivan’s plan was a “three-building shuffle” which would put town departments and the Council on Aging in the Decas School building while making the Multi-Service Center into a community center.

The Select Board suggested exploring other options after Tecton Architects gave a $44.36 million price tag for turning Town Hall into police headquarters. 

“There is no way this town is going to accept a $40 million price tag,” Whiteside said.

According to Jeffery McElravy of Tecton Architects, it would cost only $39 million to “start from scratch” and build a new police station. 

McElravy explained that it would cost more to work around the existing Town Hall structure while renovating it to meet the Police Department's needs.

This is the opposite of what town officials were expecting to hear. In a September 2022 open letter to Police Building Study Committee Chair Claire Smith, Whiteside said that it would be cheaper for the town to move the Police Department than to build a brand-new building. 

Rebecca Hopkins of Tecton Architects presented a “scaled-down” version of the project, a 27,000-square-foot one-story building located on Main Street across from Wesley United Methodist Church. This would cost $20 million, but the reduction in price also means a reduction in size. The site would house fewer detainees and have no room for regional police dispatch.

“This is very much a back and forth process,” said Tecton Architects representative Rebecca Hopkins.

Police Chief Walter Correia said that he liked the idea of a one-story location on Main Street, given its potential to expand to two stories.

Select Board member Alan Slavin said that the Board “cannot guarantee” a future expansion due to rising construction costs.