WATERVILLE — The public will get a chance to comment next week on a proposal to build a new police station at Head of Falls when the Planning Board reviews the project.

“Anyone who wants to present their opinion at the Planning Board meeting, whether in favor or opposed to the project, is welcome to attend,” Board Chairman David Geller said.

City officials estimate a 12,000-square-foot, one-story building on the waterfront will cost $3.2 million. The city’s architect, Port City Architecture, of Portland, is designing the station with input from city officials. The plan is to build the station on what is now a paved parking lot. Some city officials say that plan would extend the development into the Two-Cent Plaza, a park at the entrance to the historic Two-Cent Bridge.

“It’ll infringe on the plaza; it’ll just look way out of place down there,” Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said Thursday.

“A two-story building would look better. A two-story building would fit better, and there would be room for expansion.”

The current police station in the basement of City Hall is cramped, antiquated and inadequate for modern police needs, city officials say. They also say it is dangerous, because there is no proper space for keeping the public separate from people being arrested.

Stubbert was one of only two councilors who voted June 6 to buy the Morning Sentinel building on Front Street and renovate it for use as a police station; Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, also favored buying that building, but five other councilors rejected the proposal.

The city-owned Head of Falls site came heavily recommended — by Port City; the city’s construction manager, Wright-Wryan Construction Inc.; and the council-appointed Police Station Study Committee.

Stubbert said Thursday he thinks the council made a mistake in choosing the waterfront and that there are better uses for the site.

But if it is to be built at Head of Falls, Stubbert favors a two-story building. It would cost more, particularly because it would require an elevator and stairwells, but it makes more sense, he said.

A long-standing agreement between the city and MaineToday Media, which owns the nearby Morning Sentinel building at 31 Front St., requires that the Sentinel have rights to 20 parking spaces at Head of Falls. Stubbert believes a single-story building, which would have a bigger footprint, would make that a problem.

The city’s estimate for a two-story building is $3.4 million, but City Manager Michael Roy has pointed out that the true costs will not be known until the design is complete and the project is put out to bid for subcontractors. Stubbert said he believes the current estimates are high.

The city must buy a sliver of land — less than 1/2 acre — from Pan Am Railways before building the police station. The land abuts the current parking lot at Head of Falls. Stubbert said the city is talking with railroad officials about a purchase.

Planning Board review

The Planning Board July 2 will consider the police station plan under the city’s site plan review ordinance. Planners also will consider a request by the city to rezone part of the land at Head of Falls from general industrial to commercial-A. The zoning change would lessen significant setback requirements there, according to City Planner Ann Beverage.

While the Planning Board will vote on approving or rejecting the proposal under the site plan review ordinance, it may only make recommendations to the council on zoning issues. The council would have the final say.

The board will look at a number of issues when reviewing the project, including whether it meets zoning requirements. The proposal also must meet approval of the city engineer and Fire Department and have adequate utilities, as well as sewer and water provisions.

The meeting is at 7 p.m., Monday, July 2, in the council chambers at The Center downtown.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.