WATERVILLE — Preliminary plans for a police station at Head of Falls were unveiled last night, but were met with the same nagging questions by some city councilors and residents.

Some of the 20 or so members of the public who attended the workshop hosted by the City Council on Monday night echoed those concerns, including concerns about police response time, flooding issues and cost.

Many of the same people stayed to participate in a Planning Board discussion on the same issue.

The council took no action on the plan and will discuss it further. The Planning Board was still discussing it at press time.

Standing before the council, architect John Charette, of Port City Architecture, presented two schematic drawings — the site plan and the floor plan — of the single-story 12,000-square-foot building, estimated at $3.2 million.

The proposed station would be built on the Head of Falls parking lot — a paved 62-space lot south of East Temple Street. The northeast corner of the building would be about 10 feet from the park plaza that is a gateway to the historic Two-Cent Bridge.

The site plan also calls for the creation of a 58-space parking lot on green space between the existing parking lot and the railroad tracks to the west. To build an entrance to the new lot, a section of brick sidewalk on East Temple Street would be removed, along with two recently planted trees. About a dozen more trees would be felled to make room for the lot’s southern end — land that must be bought from Pan Am Railways.

The floor plan shows more than 20 rooms, including six restrooms, two holding cells, locker rooms and more.

Discussions about building a new police station in Waterville began almost two years ago. In February, the council voted 5-2 to build the station on the city-owned property at Head of Falls, which was recommended by Port City; the city’s construction manager, Wright-Wryan Construction Inc.; and the council-appointed Police Station Study Committee. Then, in June, the council revisted the issue when councilors considered buying the Morning Sentinel building on Front Street and renovating it for police, which was defeated 5-2.

Still, the council wasn’t convinced Monday night to green light the project.

At issue were the same topics that had been cropping up since the plan began: whether police response from the station would be slowed by passing trains, whether the site would be susceptible to flooding, whether the cost was too high and whether the police station would inhibit further economic development on the waterfront.

City Manager Mike Roy had answers for most of the concerns.

Armed with black-and-white photographs from the 1987 flood, showed that the rising waters of the Kennebec River never reached the proposed building site.

“If it had, the Two-Cent Bridge would have swept out to Popham Beach,” he said.

Roy said that passing trains could potentially block access to Front Street from East Temple Street, but reiterated that police would respond to emergency calls through an underpass farther north. He argued that the underpass allowed police to serve the residents and workers of Head of Falls during the days of Wyandot Mill, so the reverse should be true today.

Several people from the community spoke against the proposed site, including local attorneys Tom Nale and David Geller, both of whom adopted a prosecutorial tone when addressing the council and the site’s planners.

Nale didn’t buy the argument that the underpass would allow police to respond in all cases.

“Reasonable men cannot differ on that issue,” he said.

Geller, chairman of the Planning Board , said he was speaking as a citizen when he voiced opposition during the council workshop. He urged Mayor Karen Heck to take an active role in the issue, because it’s germane to her key issue — economic development.

“It’s an economic-development gem waiting to be polished,” he said of the undeveloped Head of Falls site. “I’m afraid a police station will have a quashing effect on development down there.

After nearly two hours of discussion, Mayor Karen Heck suggested that the topic continue for the next two weeks within the community.

“I would like to encourage you to speak to your councilors,” Heck said to the meeting attendees. “But please remember this is a community discussion rather than an argument.”

Heck urged residents to be respectful and acknowledge that a lot of work and money has gone into the project thus far.

The city council will discuss the issue again at its Tuesday, July 17, meeting, when they will decide whether to fund the project and at what amount.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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