FARMINGTON — Taxpayers will spend about $44,500 annually over the next 15 years to pay for the renovation of the nearly 40-year-old building that will become the town’s new police station.

At a meeting Tuesday night, selectmen accepted the lowest of eight bids from contractors seeking to do the work. They voted 4-0 to award the project to Blane Casey Building Contractor, a company from South China that bid $420,824.

Renovation work at the 116 Franklin Ave. building, donated to the town by Franklin Memorial Hospital, will start within the next month. Big-ticket repairs include installing a new roof, windows and a furnace at the 6,000-square-foot space built in the early 1970s, said Town Manager Richard Davis.

The town’s Police Department hopes to move into the building in February, leaving behind its cramped, 1,500-square-foot space in the Town Office on Farmington Falls Road.

Residents and town officials alike have supported the project, with some saying the police force had to get out of a space they described as a “closet with no windows” designed for five employees, while the department staff has more than doubled in size.

At the annual Town Meeting in April, residents overwhelmingly approved spending $490,000 to renovate the Franklin Avenue building. In addition to the renovation work approved this week, the rest of the money already has been spent on designs, permits and planning, according to Davis.

The highest bid to do the renovation work was $524,033, which would have far exceeded the project budget, he said. A plan to build a garage for police vehicles at the site was also dropped because of the cost.

The town plans to issue bonds to pay for the overall project, being paid back over 15 years. The annual debt repayment by taxpayers is $43,940 for the first five years of the loan, jumping to $45,735 for the remainder, Davis said Tuesday.

The annual effect on the town tax rate is about 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, he said.

The owner of a $100,000 home will pay about $10 annually to cover the debt cost, depending on changes in the town’s overall valuation.

Heating and electric work are among other repairs included in the project, designed by the Bunker & Savage Architects firm of Augusta. A new alarm system, generator and other items required by a police station also are being installed at the building.

The 13 full-time police officers and other department staff members practically are “stacked on top of each other” in the existing space at the Town Office, Deputy Chief Shane Cote said Tuesday. When fully staffed, the police force has 14 full-time officers, along with some clerical staff and part-time officers.

Seven patrol officers share one desk, and Cote’s office gets divvied up among him, one detective and two sergeants. Police interviews are conducted wherever there is space, usually in Chief Jack Peck’s office or a nearby Town Office room typically reserved for Board of Selectmen meetings, he said.

Moving into the new building is expected to solve all of those space problems, while also making it easier, for example, to adhere to state laws that require recording video and audio of interviews.

Instead of cramping witnesses, victims or suspects into the chief’s office for interviews, the new building has two rooms dedicated to the important law enforcement process, Cote said.

“The biggest thing is we won’t be sitting on top of each other when we’re trying to work,” he said of the new building.

Voters previously rejected building a new police station. They defeated a proposed $2.75 million project 1,643-1,507 in 2009 that involved construction of a 9,000-square-foot building at the intersection of High Street and Farmington Falls Road.

Franklin Memorial Hospital donated the 116 Franklin Ave. building to the town last year. A family medical practice previously housed in the building moved into hospital office space in March, according to hospital administrators.

Before the hospital announced its plan to donate the building, selectmen were planning to ask voters to approve building a police station that cost $2 million.

After the meeting Tuesday, Peck said he thinks options that called for building a police station didn’t have residents’ support.

“This (project) wouldn’t have been possible without the building donation from the hospital,” he said.

Selectman Ryan Morgan was absent from the meeting.

David Robinson — 861-9287
[email protected]

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