Hallowell firefighters and Pinnacle Tree Service Workers remove the sign from the old Hallowell Fire Department on Second Street on June 12, 2018, in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

HALLOWELL — Architects will begin work on a design job for reuse and potential use by the police department at the Second Street Fire Station.

The work will be done by Bangor-based architecture firm Artifex, and the city will spend up to $25,000 on the work, authorized by a unanimous vote of the City Council on Monday.

City Councilor Michael Frett, who is the chairperson of the city’s Property and Public Lands Committee, said the contract is for $24,000, but the extra $1,000 was added for wiggle room.

He said the group will look at the entire building and tell city officials what it would take to bring it up to code, as well as what it would cost to put a public safety facility in the building.

“In the end, should we choose not to go ahead and install the police department there, we will have acquired some sense of the building’s current status and what could be done,” Frett said.

He said the group would also consider what would need to be done to maintain the building’s historic character.

According to the scope of work, Artifex officials will do a site review the week of March 15 and report on the existing condition of the building. Also that week, the firm will meet with city and police department officials to talk about a floor plan. The firm will then present floor plans with cost estimates, along with information about funding sources.

Ellen Angel, Artifex architect, called the job at the fire station a “fabulous opportunity” for a “wonderful historic building.”

In November 2020, the City Council approved funding for the study by a 6-1 vote. That vote came a month after the council rejected the only proposal to Hallowell’s request for proposals for the building’s reuse after an executive session.

The proposal, by Hallowell resident Eric Perry, owner of E.J. Perry Construction, and his wife, Pamela, would have seen the couple purchase the building for $10,500 and put in public bathrooms, apartments and an arts and cultural center.

The police department operates out of a couple of small rooms in the basement of City Hall. Police Chief Scott MacMaster said in November he supported moving the police department into the Second Street Fire Station because it would give the department more storage space and remain accessible for downtown residents.

In March 2018, the City Properties Planning Group unanimously recommended moving the police department to the first floor of the Second Street fire station. The idea seemed to fall out of favor, but gained a resurgence after the rejection of Perry’s proposal.

A Feb. 5, 2019, memorandum written by then-councilor and current-Mayor George Lapointe said that based on an August 2018 report, it would cost $336,284 to fully rehabilitate the building. The police station conversion would cost an additional $170,000 to $250,000.

The process will conclude in early May with a “conceptual design package” that outlines many details of the preferred design.

The Second Street Fire Station was built in 1828 and served as the Town Hall until 1899. The Hallowell Fire Department moved out of the old Second Street building and in 2018 began working out of a new fire station on donated land in Stevens Commons on Winthrop Street. Currently, the building now houses the Hallowell Food Pantry.

In December 2019, a real estate appraisal valued the property at $300,000.

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