WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday voted 5-2 against buying the Morning Sentinel building and turning it into a police station.
By late Tuesday, they had not taken a final vote on whether to build a new police station at Head of Falls, the site chosen by the Police Station Study Committee and recommended by the city’s architect and construction manager.
Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, voted to buy the Sentinel building.
Stubbert said Monday that he believed retrofitting the Sentinel building for a police station would save the city $500,000 to $1 million.
Thomas on Tuesday questioned the logic of building a police station with higher structural standards to make it safer than most buildings, yet the city would build a station on the other side of railroad tracks that could be inaccessible in an emergency.
He said that it costs more to construct public safety buildings because they must be stronger than most buildings in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood or hurricane.
Both the city’s architect and construction manager, Port City Architecture and Wright-Ryan Construction, Inc., respectively, estimate that building a one-story station at Head of Falls will cost $3.2 million, but Andy Hyland of Port City said the city can determine price and they will build the best possible station for that money.
The council initially approved spending $2.5 million for a police station. MaineToday Media, owner of the Sentinel, offered the building to the city for $550,000.
In order to build at Head of Falls, the city must buy a piece of land from the railroad at the site.
City Manager Michael Roy said the railroad is a willing seller, but the city must have the land appraised and then negotiate a price with the railroad.
Resident Heather Merrow objected to the city’s waiting so long to work out that land issue.
She said that, after all the police station studies and discussions, now the city must get the land appraised and reach a price, and that could take a year. The railroad can ask whatever price it wants, she said.
“If we vote tonight and do (build) it at the Head of Falls, they’ve got us,” she said of the railroad.
Merrow said the city should have negotiated the land deal long ago.
“I think that that should have been done at the very beginning, before we got to this point,” she said.
Sam Shapiro, a member of the Police Station Study Committee, recalled the city’s considering building a new high school more than 50 years ago and going through a similar process, with people thinking the city could not afford it.
“I want to make sure we get a police station and we get one that will last 50 years,” he said.
Councilors who voted against buying the Sentinel building were George Myers, Jr., D-Ward 2, Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6, and Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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