An architectural rendering depicts plans for a new Augusta Police Department building off Willow Street. The Planning Board approved construction of the station Tuesday night. Rendering courtesy of Port City Architecture

AUGUSTA — The Planning Board unanimously approved construction of a new Augusta Police Station on Willow Street that, despite concerns about inflation and supply chain problems, is still expected to cost about $20.4 million.

The new station will have solar panels on its roof feeding electricity into the grid, electric charging stations for the expected eventual arrival of some electric police cruisers, secure parking for police, and a large open lobby officials hope will be welcoming to the public. It will also spruce up a site that has been vacant since a former Hannaford store located there closed down more than a decade ago.

The proposed new station faced no opposition and got a warm welcome from the two neighbors, including the city’s mayor who lives next to the site, who spoke out on the project at Tuesday night’s Planning Board meeting.

“I’m very interested and very much in favor of this project and look forward to it making good use of the former Hannaford site, and we’re thrilled to have the guys and gals in blue just down the street from us and are anxious to get this done,” said Mike Pellerin, a Willow Street resident. “We’re very interested in having our new neighbors there as soon as possible.”

Matt Nazar, the city’s director of development services who is serving as project manager of the new police station construction project, said that could be as soon as January 2024, if the project breaks ground in mid-October of this year as is hoped.

And he said officials still believe the new station can be built for the $20.5 million city voters approved borrowing for the project in June 2021, despite ongoing inflation and problems getting building supplies and materials due to breakdowns in supply chains.


“We’re expected to come in right around the project budget, which is $20.4 million,” Nazar said. “We were hoping we could come in lower but that was before inflation and supply chain issues reared their heads. The anticipated opening date is around January of 2024, with all things moving as they should. Hopefully supply chain issues won’t catch us up.”

The new station will replace the city’s current Union Street station, a former Naval reserve building built in the 1940s. The department moved into it over two decades ago.

Problems with the existing police station include a leaky roof; not meeting current critical facility building code standards; no drinkable water due to lead contamination in the pipes; bathrooms and locker rooms with rotted flooring and rusty stalls; inadequate heat; security problems due to a lack of separation between public, semipublic and restricted areas; a dispatch center with no room to expand; no centrally located evidence holding room; and a need for secure parking.

The new two-story, 25,000-square-foot building as currently designed will have two elevators, an evidence lab and management archives, interview rooms allowing multiple people to be interviewed by police at the same time, a dispatch center, a drive-thru sally port to bring people in custody into the building, weapons storage, a fitness area, training room and locker room.

Solar panels on the roof will feed power into the electrical grid, for which the city will get a credit on its electric bill.

The 1962 former Hannaford supermarket building on the site will be demolished. An existing, 42-inch major sewer line buried less than a foot below the current parking lot — and which currently moves all the sewage from the city’s east side of the Kennebec River on its way to the treatment plant across the river — prompted the building to be located toward the back of the property. One section of the sewer line will be moved to accommodate the station.


As a public safety building, the building code requires the station to be built to stringent “Category 4” risk standards, which seek to ensure that such buildings remain functional in all conditions, including emergencies such as hurricanes. As part of that, the city had to take steps to ensure the structure can withstand a so-called 500-year flood. Those provisions include raising most of the site’s current ground level higher to keep it out of the 500-year floodplain and building a pedestrian access in a way that will allow it to be used by public safety vehicles should the other two entrances be made unusable by flooding. The building will be built on a slab, not on a dug basement.

“Once you get up on the plateau (of the site the station will be built on), you’ll be above that,” Steve Blais of Blais Civil Engineering in Scarborough, an engineer on the project, said of the 500-year floodplain. He later joked that “if there is a 500-year flood, I’ll be in my ark, but the police will be able to get where they need to go.”

Nazar said Willow Street, where the new station will be built, was not under water during the major flood of 1987, nor was he aware of it ever being under water from the nearby Kennebec River.

Mayor Mark O’Brien, whose family’s home abuts the department site to the northeast, said his family won’t miss the delivery trucks, traffic or sound of the chiller running outside that characterized the area when the site was a Hannaford supermarket.

“This is a long overdue project, with a lot of momentum behind it,” O’Brien said. “I hope there is nothing that comes up that prevents this from going forward.”

The board approved a waiver of the city’s parking requirements, which would have required 115 parking spaces, allowing the number of spaces to be reduced to 82, which the city’s engineer determined would be adequate for employees and visitors to the site.

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