OAKLAND — There were few concerns and just a handful of questions voiced Thursday evening at a public hearing on a proposal to build a police station downtown.

The public hearing, which was the first of two before the issue goes to a referendum vote in November, drew about 25 people to Williams Elementary School.

“I thought (a new police station) was an undue burden on the citizens of Oakland last time it was proposed,” said resident Anne Hammond, referring to a 2009 plan to build a $5 million multi-purpose building that would have included a town office and a police station. “But I’m going to support it this time,” she said. “I think the facilities committee has done a great job addressing interest issues and economic issues. They’ve done a great job with it.”

Thursday’s hearing started with a 16-minute video explaining the proposal for a new station, which town officials say is badly needed and tops the list of priorities for municipal facilities in need of repair.

The current station is in a 100-year-old former farmhouse and is not handicapped-accessible. It also has problems with water and mold, has just one bathroom that is shared by employees and the public, and does not provide separate spaces where police can meet easily with crime victims and perpetrators separately.

Last spring a facilities committee began looking at options for replacing the police station and arrived at the proposal for a new station located in the same spot as the current station on Fairfield Street between the fire station and the Town Office.

The cost of the project is estimated not to exceed $1.05 million.

The building would be 3,800 square feet and would include a sally port, or garage; booking, evidence and interview rooms; and separate bathrooms for men and women. It would be funded using $150,000 from municipal reserve accounts and a $900,000 bond from the Maine Municipal Bond Bank.

The location is also in a tax-increment financing, or TIF, district, which means the town could recoup some of the operating costs of the new building, according to Town Manager Gary Bowman. Tax-increment financing is a program that provides tax incentives for economic development projects. It can not be used to repay a loan, but the money generated from the TIF district could offset some of the loan payments, Bowman said.

The town expects to have to repay $84,300 in the first year of the 15-year loan, and the figure would get smaller every year under the bond plan provided by the Maine Municipal Bond Bank.

One resident, William Mushero, said he supports the new police station but is concerned about the location because it would limit development space that could be used by businesses.

But Bowman said it is important to have a police station that is centrally located and that it is an advantage to build in a spot people already identify with the Police Department.

A downtown police station is also a deterrent to crime downtown, he said.

Sgt. Peter Tibbetts, an Oakland police officer who attended the hearing, said he also favors a new building.

“It’s an old building,” said Tibbetts, who has worked for the Oakland department for nine years. “There are water and mold issues. It’s just not user-friendly.”

A second public hearing on the new station is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 21 and also will be held at Williams Elementary School.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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