AUGUSTA — While city officials believe a good spot for Augusta’s proposed new police station would be right next to the existing station on Union Street, they’ve agreed to at least consider putting the proposed new station downtown as some advocates suggest.

A downtown location could be a good, centrally-located spot for a police station, advocates say, and a larger police presence there could serve as a deterrent to crime while downtown merchants could benefit from having the department and its 65 or so employees in their vicinity as potential customers.

“There are some different places they could go — there are options down here,” said Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance.

Hall said concerns about crime and public safety downtown aren’t what is driving the request to consider putting the new station there, and said this summer downtown has had very few problems with crime or trouble-makers.

“It couldn’t hurt to have a (larger) police presence, but that wasn’t a primary consideration,” Hall said. “Really, it was mostly just the added benefit of having the whole department downtown, for the camaraderie, to add to the customer base. There are some empty lots here where, if they wanted to build, they could fill in the gap.”

City Manager William Bridgeo said before the location of the new station is finalized the city will have a needs assessment done to determine the size of the new building and its amenities, and officials would then consider potential sites for the new station.

They already have one spot in mind, right next to the existing station on city-owned land between Capitol Park and the Kennebec Valley YMCA. Bridgeo, Police Chief Jared Mills, and Facilities Manager Bob LaBreck all said there appears to be enough room next to the existing station to build a new station.

Bridgeo said the most obvious advantage of that spot is the city already owns the land, so there would be no land acquisition costs.

Mills said a location for the proposed new station has not been selected but the present location “is strategically located in the city to provide optimum service.”

“It seemed like the most logical decision which was why it was suggested but we are in the infancy of this process and nothing has been determined,” Mills said regarding the station location. “At this point I have an open mind. The first part of this process is to develop a needs assessment which will help guide us to the best possible location for a new police department. If the downtown or any other location is determined to be the best location I am fine with that.”

A downtown location could have challenges, however, including, Bridgeo said, concerns about flooding — not something that would be desirable in a building housing workers who respond to emergencies — depending on where it was located in relation to the Kennebec River, as well as concerns about traffic, and the cost and availability of property.

However Bridgeo said whether the new station should be downtown “is a legitimate question.”

He said the ultimate decision of where the station would be is up to city councilors.

He said the station location would be selected before the proposal to build a new police station goes to voters, likely in a fall of 2019 referendum question.

Hall said potential locations for a police station in, or near, downtown could include the Maine State Housing Authority building at 353 Water St., which the authority plans to move out of in 2020, or the vacant lot where the old YMCA once stood, at the corner of State and Winthrop streets.

Councilors and police have said a new station is needed, at an estimated cost of $8.55 million, because the current, 1940s building is outdated with problems including that the floors aren’t level, the bathrooms are disgusting, the roof leaks, the heating system is unable to keep up with winter’s cold, its water isn’t used for drinking because of lead pipes and the wiring is outdated.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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