AUGUSTA — City officials propose to build a police station.

The Police Department’s current home, a former Navy reserve building, has so many infrastructure needs — including a new roof, wiring, and plumbing throughout — that it would cost millions to renovate and update the Union Street building.

Instead of doing that, City Manager William Bridgeo proposes in the city’s latest five-year capital improvement plan to build a replacement station, next to the old one, at an estimated cost of $8.55 million. If the proposal moves forward, it could be ready for police to move in within five years.

City councilors are scheduled to consider authorizing the initial funding to get that process started Thursday, as part of several capital improvement plan-related funding proposals.

Officials said it’s not that the old building, which is believed to have been built around 1940 and was converted into the city’s police station about 20 years ago when police moved out of the old City Hall on Cony Street, has one glaring problem prompting the need to move. Rather, they said, it’s an accumulation of smaller problems combined with an aging infrastructure and a leaky roof. Those, and the expense that would be incurred to house the department while renovation took place that, would cost millions of dollars to fix. And if and when the renovation took place, the city still would be left with an older building, with a shorter projected remaining lifespan than an entirely new, though likely more expensive, one.

“We can no longer operate here without major work. We’re in a position now where significant changes would have to be made to stay here,” police Chief Jared Mills said during a tour of the current station. “It’s not paint and polish this building needs. It’s infrastructure. It’s gut the walls and rip things out.”


When the topic first came up, Mills said he wanted to renovate the current building. But after looking more closely at the costs and what the city would get for those renovation costs, he now favors building new.

Mills said putting big money into the current building would be “like putting lipstick on a pig. A new building makes the most sense, long-term.”

The building’s problems start at the top, with a rubber-membrane flat roof where city maintenance workers have been chasing leaks for at least 12 years, according to Bob LaBreck, the city’s facilities manager. Sections of ceiling inside the building have been torn out because of water damage, or to expose leaks so they could be fixed. Water has leaked into areas including the dispatch center and the server room. Bridgeo said that alone would cost more than $200,000.

That barely scratches the surface of problems, however, according to the police.

The building’s plumbing includes lead pipes, so building occupants can’t drink the water there. Much of the wiring is original, cloth-covered wires. The bathrooms are dated, they have floors that are peeling up and they don’t meet federal requirements for providing access for people with disabilities. The heating system, other than the 20-year-old boilers, needs to be replaced.

While the front portion of the building is air-conditioned, the rear portion — or about 40 percent of the space occupied by police — is not.


The building did get some upgrades 20 years ago when it became the new police station, but LaBreck estimated about 90 percent of the building’s infrastructure is original, dating to 1940. He does not have an estimate of what it would cost to renovate the building.

LaBreck said the department would remain in the current building while the new building is under construction, probably on a spot that is now a parking lot between the old building and the street. When the new structure is complete, the old one would be torn down. Tenants of the part of the building not occupied by the Police Department — Augusta’s adult education program and the Augusta Housing Authority — would have to move elsewhere.

On Thursday, city councilors will consider a proposal to set aside $550,000 for the project, $339,000 of that funding left over from prior years’ capital improvement projects — including $200,000 for the new roof for that same building — and the rest to be borrowed through a bond that could be authorized by a vote of councilors.

The only money that would be spent before a proposal to build a new station goes to voters, however, would be about $50,000. That would pay for an assessment and preliminary conceptual design, Bridgeo said, enough work so the city would have a better idea of what the project could cost before going to voters.

A referendum vote on the building proposal is expected in the fall of 2019.

“Before any serious money is expended — anything in six figures — the voters would be presented with a referendum question,” Bridgeo said.


He said the $8.55 million estimated cost was made by looking at construction costs of similar-sized stations, such as one built recently in Brunswick, and adding money to account for inflation.

Bridgeo said all capital improvement program work up for consideration by councilors Thursday could be done without requiring an increase in taxes. Most of them would be funded by revenue collected in Tax Increment Financing districts the city established over the last several years, accumulating revenue from taxes on natural gas pipelines and the Marketplace at Augusta, for example, to pay for infrastructure improvements in the city.

The new building probably would be much smaller than the current space the department has in the building now. LaBreck said the current building is 36,000 square feet, with the Police Department occupying about two-thirds of that space, or about 24,000 square feet.

Mills said the new building probably would contain around 18,000 square feet. That would mean officers would have less space, but he said all department members he’s heard from would prefer a more modern building that meets their needs even if it’s smaller than their current building.

LaBreck noted a smaller building would be more energy-efficient than the current structure.

Councilors are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center. Councilors also are scheduled to:


• Discuss a proposal to change zoning of a Civic Center Drive property to allow multi-family dwellings in a zone where they are not allowed now, for a proposed 250-unit apartment complex;

• Discuss a proposed ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries; and

• Consider approving $1.6 million in other capital improvement plan spending, the borrowing for which would need to go to voters in a referendum question.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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