The city of Augusta is long overdue for a new police station. The proposal put forth by city councilors is a good one, and voters should give it their approval when they go to the polls next week.

The referendum, voting for which will be held Tuesday, June 15, at the Augusta Civic Center for all residents who don’t vote absentee, asks residents to approve the borrowing of $20.48 million to buy a 2.29-acre lot at 7 Willow St., across from City Center at the site of a former Hannaford supermarket.

The city would then tear down the former grocery store building and construct a two-story, 24,500-square-foot building to house the police department.

A new building is sorely needed. Police now work out of a World War II-era building that was bought from the Navy in 1998 for $1. It was meant as a temporary solution, and it is now well past its sell-by date.

An architect’s report in 2019 found a leaky roof, inadequate ventilation, bad windows, a deteriorating exterior, rotted flooring, rusty bathroom stalls, and water made undrinkable by lead pipes. There is no room to expand, poor security, and an overall bad set-up that really can’t be fixed.

To renovate the police station the Union Station, and get it up to the strict code required of buildings essential to public safety, would be expensive. It would also extend the life of the building just 20-25 years, while a new building will last for 50.

As a group of 16 former Augusta city councilors wrote in a letter to the Kennebec Journal, “To put more money into this inadequate and substandard structure makes no economic sense. It is time to provide the Augusta police with a facility that is efficient, modern, and open to the citizenry.”

City officials were right to choose new construction, and they’ve picked a central location, next to where the police department used to sit before it moved in 1998.

The choices were the result of a deliberative process that was underway as early as 2018, as the cracks in the police station were showing. The three top sites were selected in 2019, and the Willow Street site won out.

That is the way a city is supposed to address its problems. It’s how they should use the knowledge and expertise of their residents and elected and appointed officials to decide a path forward.

On June 15, the city is putting forward a plan to make smart and necessary investments in one of its institutions — the police department. Residents should vote yes.

 

 

 


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