WATERVILLE — The proposal to build a new police station near Head of Falls is up for a pubic hearing and vote at tonight’s City Council meeting.

The meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will be open to public comment, said City Manager Mike Roy. After the public hearing, the city council will vote on whether to accept the proposed location for the 11,500-square-foot building.

Allan Rancourt, chairman of the Police Station Study Committee, will present an overview of the proposal, which includes project history, reviews of suitable sites and recommendations.

Roy said he hopes turnout for the meeting is strong.

“I hope people will show up, ask questions and hear the reasoning for the site selection,” he said.

Roy, who is a non-voting member on the committee, said it’s too soon to guess how the council might vote on the proposal.

“I know some councilors have spoken in favor of the site, some have spoke in opposition,” Roy said. “So, I really don’t know what the majority is.”

Project planning began in August 2010 when the Police Station Study Committee was formed. In November 2010, the committee concluded that the current police station — in the basement of City Hall — is inadequate, and should be relocated to another downtown location, according to the study material.

A new building is preferable because retrofitting a building to meet the needs of police is more expensive, the report contends.

In June, the city council voted to begin construction a new station, at an estimated cost of $2.5 million, by next November.

The criteria for the station’s location include adequate parking, access to major roads, a central location and more.

The committee reviewed 10 different downtown locations — including the fire station, the Concourse and the Morning Sentinel building — before recommending the Head of Falls parking area off Front Street.

There are no suitable existing vacant buildings in the target area, according to the report.

The report gives several reasons for recommending the Head of Falls parking area: the property is already owned by the city, the location is within an area that has the highest concentration of service calls and the project “adds value to future development at Head of Falls.”

The report estimates the cost at nearly $2.2 million for construction and $200,000 for architectural designs. The cost for furniture and equipment hasn’t been estimated yet.

According to city estimates, the project would add $91,000 per year for 25 years to the city budget. Under such a budget increase, a home assessed at $100,000, for instance, would see a tax increase of $15 per year.

At tonight’s meeting, the council will also consider:

* renewal of Roy’s contract;

* acceptance of a $5,000 grant from the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition; and

* vote on a second reading for an order to establish a tax increment financing district for Kennebec Valley Gas Company’s proposed pipeline.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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