OAKLAND — Police Chief Mike Tracy thinks it’s a good time for the Oakland Police Department to leave the temporary station it moved into 20 years ago.

A motorist who stops to ask for directions enters the same cramped hallway of the 1920s house that has been converted into a police station as people charged with domestic violence.

Across the parking lot, in the 1950s fire station, Chief Dave Coughlin is worried his firefighters regularly breathe fumes from emergency vehicles because the building does not have an exhaust ventilation system.

Town Manager Peter Nielsen said it’s far from ideal that some municipal personnel, services and equipment, including the tax assessor, are upstairs where some residents have difficulty reaching them.

All three hope that in 2013, municipal employees will be under one roof serving the public in a modern, functional, safe building that meets federal and state safety and accessibility standards.

Oakland voters will be asked on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to approve a proposed 27,953-square-foot building with a $4.9 million price tag that would house the police, fire and town offices. The new building would be built on the town-owned site of the three current structures on Fairfield Street.

Nielsen said the $4.9 million price tag represents $56 annually in property taxes on a $100,000 home, or slightly more than $1 a week.

Coughlin said that’s money well spent for all municipal and essential services and an investment in the town’s future.

Financing for the building would be a 30-year loan with a 3.75 percent interest rate, or $280,438 a year.

Nielsen said 10 percent of the $4.9 million price tag is a contingency, and the total price could drop to $4.5 million.

While the economy is in the doldrums, and money is tight, interest rates are low and Tracy, Coughlin and Nielsen said now could be considered an ideal time for the project.

“Ultimately the citizens have to make that decision,” said Tracy. “But contractors are hungry and the town is in a good place right now.”

The time is right

Fire Captain Dave Groder, also chairman of the Building Committee, said there would be a much bigger price tag for the same building five years from now.

In April 2009, Nielsen said, the council created a building study committee to assess how municipal facilities could best serve the community now and for the next 50 to 75 years.

Committee members are Jan Porter, Ramona Freeman, Jon Cox, A.J. Cain, Joe Feeley, Gary Levesque, Eric Sharpe, Shawn Stevens, Dennis McLellan and chairman Groder.

The committee reviewed the three Oakland structures, traveled to other Maine communities’ town buildings and assessed the three departments’ and community’s future needs.

“The committee thoughtfully did its homework,” said Nielsen.

One of the findings was that the police station was least suited to meet the department’s and the public’s needs, Nielsen said.

Safety and security issues are primary concerns at the police station.

Tracy said the main entrance where offenders are brought to the booking area is also where the public enters for day-to-day assistance and services.

The building is not handicapped accessible and has one bathroom for officers, the public and those being detained.

The evidence storage room doesn’t have ventilation and the upstairs training room can’t be used in summer months because of the heat, Groder said.

The station still resembles an old home — with uneven floors, paneled walls, worn and stained carpeting — from which 10 full-time and 14 part-time officers provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service.

Tracy said the proposed 5,822-square-foot police department space would separate offenders from the general public. It would have two sally port bays — secure, controlled entryways — as well as a ventilated evidence storage facility, interrogation rooms and a booking room.

“It would improve our service to the public and it would be a modern facility that would meet our needs,” said Tracy. “This (current building) was supposed to be a short-term fix 20 years ago.”

The building has shared training space for the police and fire department personnel.

The fire station, which houses millions of dollars of fire prevention equipment, doesn’t have a sprinkler system.

The 1953 cement block building also does not have an exhaust system.

The lone entrance to the station — for the public and for firefighters — is in the front of the building, where emergency vehicles leave for calls.

“It’s inefficient for today’s emergency services; we respond to everything,” Coughlin said, adding that the department responded to 125 calls in 1953 and 914 fire, rescue and emergency medical calls in 2010.

The proposed fire station includes five bays for trucks and fire-fighting equipment, an operation center, gear washing equipment, bunk rooms if the department ever has around the clock staffing and a commercial kitchen.

The 6,248-square-foot Town Office space features a large council room, all offices on one level and more parking. Nielsen said there will be 74 parking spaces for citizens and employees.

Work in progress

The building has been a work in progress and has been frequently tweaked and scaled down because of cost concerns, Coughlin and Nielsen said.

“We tried to look ahead without overdoing,” Nielsen said. “We tried to make it something Oakland could be proud of and a little special without being extravagant.”

Costs of some of the building’s features include $125,000 for furniture, $86,000 for a security system, $50,000 for a phone system and $25,000 for kitchen equipment.

Nielsen said by grouping all three departments in one energy-efficient building, the town would save money on utilities.

If the referendum is approved, Nielsen said the project would begin in the spring and substantial construction would be completed by the end of 2012.

Sheridan Corp. of Fairfield designed the structure and would build it.

The Town Council is holding a public hearing on the referendum at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria of Williams Elementary School, 55 Pleasant St. In addition, the building committee will host a public forum on the project at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2, also in the Williams cafeteria.

“We hope people will come and voice their concerns and allow us to answer their questions,” said Tracy.

“People will vote the way they think they should,” said Nielsen. “We don’t want anyone not knowing about this.”

Voting will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 8, at Williams Elementary School.

In the meantime, Groder encouraged citizens to tour the town buildings.

“We encourage the public to stop by and see what we are working in. Every door is open.”

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]


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