WATERVILLE — City councilors at a special meeting Jan. 31 will reconsider the Morning Sentinel building as a possible site for a police station now that a lower asking price is being offered.

City Manager Michael Roy said representatives from Port City Architecture, of Portland, will discuss the suitability of the Sentinel building as a police station, as well as the cost to retrofit it.

The Sentinel and a handful of other sites were considered last year for a police station but a special study committee narrowed its focus to land at Head of Falls, also off Front Street.

Councilors Tuesday were to have voted on whether to build a new $2.5 million police station at Head of Falls, but instead voted 6-1 to table the issue for further study and a vote Feb. 7.

They did so after Council Chairman Charles “Fred” Stubbert Jr., D-Ward 1, announced that Sentinel owner, MaineToday Media, had reduced its asking price for the building from $1.5 million to $1.25 million.

Roy and Stubbert disagree on which site is best for a police station, with Roy favoring Head of Falls. He cites several reasons, including the city’s ownership of the property.

“We would be giving up property that we collect taxes on,” Roy said Wednesday. “If we buy the Sentinel building the city will lose about $31,000 a year in property taxes. No one mentioned that last night and I think it’s a huge factor to be considered.”

Roy said he also has concerns about adequate parking and vehicle circulation at the Sentinel site, which would require construction of a sally port.

Stubbert, a member of the police study committee, has long supported the idea of buying the Sentinel building. He and only one other member of the seven-member police study committee, Michelle Plumstead, voted against recommending the city build a police station at Head of Falls.

Stubbert said the Sentinel is close to City Hall and has plenty of space for parking, including a city lot at Head of Falls that employees may use. The site offers the best deal in terms of cost also, he said.

“I’ve been getting lots of calls over the last two weeks and all of them have been negative about the Head of Falls site, and these people are leading members of the community,” Stubbert said.

Robert Baldacci of Baldacci Real Estate Group, of Portland, is representing MaineToday Media in the sale offering.

Baldacci said Wednesday that the price for the building started out at $2 million and then was reduced to $1.5 million and now is $1.25 million.

“We’ve come down quite a bit,” he said. “We want this to be a win-win for the city and the owners of the property.”

Stubbert urged councilors Tuesday to table voting on the Head of Falls site. He said he received a letter from Baldacci Real Estate Group, which was offering the lower price of $1.25 million.

Roy and Stubbert both got that letter, dated Jan. 9 and signed by Tony Armstrong, Baldacci’s partner and a designated broker for the company. The letter does not cite the $1.25 million price. Stubbert said Wednesday that he may have learned of the price from Waterville attorney John Nale, who is helping Baldacci with the matter.

Roy said he learned about the lowered price from Nale early in December.

But councilors were not aware that the city was being offered a lower price until Stubbert brought it up Tuesday.

“It was a total jack-in-the-box surprise as far as I’m concerned, and I think we have to look at (the Sentinel) again,” Councilor George Myers Jr., D-Ward 2, said Wednesday. “I think that we have to have the architects look very closely at the Sentinel.”

Both he and Roy said that if the architects must tour the Sentinel again, the city should not have to pay for it since the city paid for a previous tour. Stubbert says he doesn’t think another tour is necessary.

Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said Stubbert’s announcement Tuesday also took him by surprise. He said he does not support building at Head of Falls and wants to be sure city officials make the right decision concerning location.

“Really, what it comes down to in terms of public buildings, is that this is the last big project in Waterville and I think it’s important that we get it right,” Thomas said. “Where it’s located is at least as important as the building itself.”

Roy said the architects confirmed that the Sentinel does not meet structural codes for public safety buildings, so work would have to be done to correct that. Stubbert disagreed, saying a new police station would not have meet the codes Roy cited.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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