WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday voted 5-2 to build a $2.75 million police station at Head of Falls.
The vote came after nearly 1 1/2 hours of discussion and a presentation by representatives of MaineToday Media, who sought to sell the Morning Sentinel building on Front Street to the city for use as a police station.
But the majority of councilors said Head of Falls was the best solution.
Councilor George Myers Jr., D-Ward 2, said he and other city officials looked at possibilities for a site and came up with no other solutions than what the study committee found.
“I’m afraid that if we don’t do it (at Head of Falls), we’re just going to be stuck and not move forward,” Myers said.
Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, agreed calling Head of Falls “our last best chance to build it.”
Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, said a lot of work and consideration had been put into the Head of Falls recommendation. She supported Head of Falls as the site for the station.
And City Manager Michael Roy urged the council to take the Police Station Study Committee’s recommendation to build at Head of Falls, which is just north of the Sentinel building on the waterfront.
Anthony Armstrong, a broker for Baldacci Real Estate Group, representing Maine Today Media, told councilors the Sentinel building could be retrofitted for a police station and that the city could save $700,000 over Port City Architecture’s estimate for building a new station at Head of Falls. Port City was hired by the city last year to design a new building or design a renovation to an existing building.
Armstrong said experts spent more than 230 hours in the last six days looking at the Sentinel building and doing research on what it would take to make appropriate changes to the facility.
The Baldacci Group’s timeline presented to the city estimated the Sentinel building could be vacated between March 5 and 9 and, with changes, could be ready for police by the end of the summer.
But Andy Hyland of Port City Architecture, of Portland, told councilors building new would give the city exactly what it wants in a police station; he said it would be better to build new rather than renovate an existing building. Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said all the people he talked to do not want a police station at Head of Falls.
“In my mind, the best place is Colby Circle,” he said of one site the committee had considered for a police station.
Councilor Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6, concurred.
“I haven’t heard anything positive about the Head of Falls site and the police station location there,” she said.
Council Chairman Charles “Fred” Stubbert, Jr., D-Ward 1, said the only reason he wanted to buy the Sentinel building and renovate it is that by his calculations, it was the least costly choice.
“I have no vested interest in the Sentinel building, but it looks like it will be the most economical solution,” he said.
Councilor Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, favored Head of Falls and recommended the city continue working with Port City.
“I do want Port City on board — no question in my mind,” she said.
Myers, Winslow, O’Donnell, Mathias and Rancourt-Thomas voted to build at Head of Falls; Stubbert and Thomas voted against building there.
Amy Calder — 861-9247