OAKLAND — Voters in November will be asked whether they want to approve the construction of a new police station to replace the department’s current headquarters.

The Town Council on Tuesday approved putting the ballot question to voters, and members of the town’s budget advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend the project.

The town is proposing a 3,800-square-foot station to replace the aging early-20th-century house that the department now uses. The estimated cost of the project is $1.05 million. The town is proposing to borrow $900,000 and use $150,000 in cash from two reserve accounts to fund the new station.

Tuesday’s votes followed a presentation on the project from a 12-member evaluation committee appointed by the council earlier this year.

The town has been debating for years how to solve its police station problem. The current department is a converted two-story home that doesn’t meet the basic needs of Oakland’s officers or the public they are expected to serve, said Mike Willey, chairman of the evaluation committee.

The building has inadequate fire detection and suppression systems and poor records storage capability; isn’t compliant with disability laws; and has problems with water, moisture and mold.

The layout of the house is inappropriate for law enforcement and presents basic public safety problems as well as problems separating multiple subjects or perpetrators and victims, Willey said.

Members of the evaluation committee looked at alternatives like contracting with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, using a Regional School Unit 18 building, or renovating the current station, but ruled them out as unfeasible after review. The committee spent months studying the issue and interviewed other towns and toured police departments before coming up with the designs for the building, Willey said.

The proposed station would be a single-story wooden building in the current station’s location. It would include offices, interview rooms, men’s and women’s toilets and locker rooms, and it would provide more safety for officers and members of the public.

A 650-square-foot meeting room with a separate entrance that can be used for Town Council meetings, public events and training is included in the building. It also includes a sally port with room for two police cruisers, where officers can take a suspect from the car into the booking and interview room through a secure entrance. Having the sally port could save the department $5,000 to $7,000 a year in vehicle fuel and maintenance costs, Willey estimated.

A new, professional police department also could help Oakland in its effort to attract new businesses, Willey said.

“You could look at this and see a police department, but you could also look at it and see a marketing tool,” he said.

The proposal raised some concerns from members of the Budget Committee, who cited public anxiety over taxes, including the Regional School Unit 18 budget, which went through a prolonged referendum fight earlier this summer. That experience and voters’ rejection of a proposed $4.5 million municipal complex building in 2009 make officials sensitive to residents’ concerns about spending.

Town Manager Gary Bowman said the price of the building was “higher than anticipated,” but the committee worked hard to bring the cost down.

If approved, the project is not expected to affect tax rates, Bowman said. Oakland has been using money from a tax increment financing district passed last year on a natural gas transmission line to offset about $89,000 in municipal costs, Bowman said. A TIF allows the town to shelter tax money from a development and direct it to approved costs. Oakland has used its TIF revenue toward part of the town manager and code enforcement salary and payments to regional organizations, Bowman said.

That frees up some money in the budget to devote to debt payment on the proposed station, which would amount to about $84,000 annually for the first 15 years, Bowman said.

“I think it is probably a prudent time to take care of this,” he said.

Councilor Don Borman said the committee was organizing informational sessions with local civic organizations such as the Lions Club and the Masons and would hold at least one large public hearing about the proposal before the vote on Nov. 3.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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