WATERVILLE — An ongoing debate about whether the city should buy the Morning Sentinel building and turn it into a police station may be resolved Tuesday night as councilors take final votes on the proposal.

Some councilors also are considering buying the building for city offices and renovating City Hall’s first floor to turn it into a police station.

City Manager Michael Roy said Friday that a negotiating team consisting of Mayor Karen Heck and Councilors George Myers Jr., D-Ward 2, and Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, will meet with MaineToday Media representatives at 4 p.m. before the 7 p.m. council meeting to discuss sale price and related issues. MaineToday owns the Morning Sentinel.

Then at 6:45 p.m., councilors are scheduled to meet in executive session to discuss real estate negotiations, which is allowed by the state’s open meeting law.

MaineToday’s chief executive officer, Neil Heyside, said his company would sell the newspaper building to the city for $600,000; councilors March 6 voted to buy it for $500,000, but MaineToday officials have not said whether they would accept that offer.

Two more votes are required for final approval, and the council could take one or two votes Tuesday.

Roy said councilors still need to consider the cost of buying and retrofitting the Sentinel building, as opposed to building a new police station at Head of Falls.

Meanwhile, some councilors have discussed buying the Sentinel building and moving City Hall offices there instead of turning it into a police station.

The Police Department then could move to the City Hall first floor, Myers said, citing informal email discussions in the last several days between some city officials and councilors.

Roy said the full council has not discussed the idea of putting city offices in the Sentinel building.

“There have been people that have suggested that possibility, but there has been no discussion or examination or analysis of any kind to further that question along,” Roy said. “Until the council as a whole has a chance to discuss this idea more, we’re not going to be doing any detailed examination of that (Sentinel building) being a city office. Just because someone suggested it in an email doesn’t mean the full council wants to do it.”

City Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said he opposed the idea in an email to city officials because there isn’t enough space for police and the extensive changes needed would harm the historic character of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I’m very much opposed to chopping up City Hall and making it into a police station,” he said.

Stubbert supports the proposal to buy the Sentinel building and put the police there.

“I think that’s best for the taxpayers,” he said. “It would save a considerable amount of money over building a new police station at Head of Falls.”

Roy recently issued cost estimates for a police station that noted that buying and renovating the Sentinel building would cost between $2 million and $2.2 million; building new at Head of Falls, $2.6 million to $2.75 million.

Meanwhile, Heck said the idea of moving City Hall offices across Front Street to the Sentinel building should be examined.

“If we can save the city money and get what we need, I’m all for it; but the piece that’s important is that we’re exploring these options,” she said.

The Police Station Study Committee recommends building at Head of Falls and not buying and retrofitting the 15-year-old Sentinel building. The committee says the building does not have adequate room for expansion and would not be optimal for a police station.

“I understand the unhappiness of the committee that this (issue of possible police sites) is being examined again, but you really have to think about new information that’s come to light,” Heck said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


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