HALLOWELL — The Hallowell Police Department has been buried in the basement of City Hall for more than a century, but that might be coming to an end soon.

A group of residents expressed interest, during a public forum Wednesday, in moving the department to the historic Second Street firehouse.

The City Properties Planning Group hosted the meeting with about 20 residents and city officials to discuss the best future use of the nearly 190-year-old fire station, which will be vacated in a few months when the Hallowell Fire Department moves to its new home at Stevens Commons.

“It’s time to get the Police Department out of the cellar of City Hall,” former Mayor Bob Stubbs said. “It’s time to take care of the Police department.”

Other ideas for what to do with the nearly 7,000-square-foot building included turning it into a community center, a museum space or commercial space, which would provide the city with a small revenue stream. Nobody suggested the city sell the fire station, which was built in 1828, but some people thought the city could rent the upstairs apartment or host fee-based community functions.

The city properties planning group aims to determine the best uses of several properties around Hallowell, including the Second Street fire station and the public works garage.

“City-owned properties should be either used by the city or generating value to the city,” committee co-chairman Councilor Michael Frett said. “From a management perspective, we need to have an idea of what those properties are doing.”

At its first meeting earlier this month, Mayor Mark Walker told the group — which includes Frett and Councilors Diano Circo and Maureen Aucoin — that determining the future use of those buildings is the top priority of the task force.

Nearly everyone who spoke mentioned moving the Police Department out of its current home to the Second Street property. City Manager Nate Rudy plans to show a design of what a new police station would look like during the task force’s meeting next week.

The Police Department, according to a document posted on the city’s website, needs a general office space with two work stations, a chief’s office, storage area, an interview room with audio and visual devices, a break room, an evidence room, staff parking, surveillance equipment and garage space for vehicle maintenance.

The Hallowell Fire Department is moving early this spring to a new $2 million station at Stevens Commons on Winthrop Street. The new firehouse is being funded by an anonymous donor who ponied up the money last March to save the Fire Department after the council decided to lease space in a new Farmingdale fire station — a decision it later retracted.

The current fire station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built as the Town Hall, then became City Hall when Hallowell became a city years later. The fire tower was added to the structure when the Fire Department moved from Water Street. A council resolution in 2013 sought to ensure the building was preserved and maintained.

Now, in addition to the Fire Department, the Hallowell Food Bank operates in the firehouse, and a collection of historic artifacts and Fire Department memorabilia is being stored on the second floor. There has been talk in the last few months of turning the space into a museum, in addition to relocating the Police Department, ideas the task force will discuss in the coming months.

“You’re worried about the cost of maintaining (the property) and what the future maintenance going to be,” resident Steve Goodman said. “It’s something you’re thinking about.”

Rudy said the task force also will tackle the future of the public works garage, which Public Works Foreman Chris Buck said has deteriorated over the years because of neglect. If the task force decides a new public garage space is needed, it will have to decide what the best use of the current garage is.

Buck said the 5,600-square-foot building was built in the mid- to late 1800s and has two garage doors, which Buck said makes it difficult to get trucks and equipment inside. Because of the brick structure, there is little insulation, Buck said, and the rubber roof is more than 20 years old and needs repairs.

Buck said the department needs a new garage and a separate covered building for sand and salt. He would like seven or eight vehicle bays with an inside washing area for the winter, an office, a break room, a shower and space to perform equipment maintenance.

He estimated the cost would be around $500,000, comparing it to the new West Gardiner public works building of the same size.

The group is scheduled to meet Feb. 8 to discuss the fire station and hear a presentation from police Chief Eric Nason about the Police Department’s needs. The task force will meet two weeks later to talk about the public works garage.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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