FARMINGTON – Selectmen gave the green light on hiring an architectural firm for up to $12,000 to look into the feasibility of building a new police station at the former site of the town garage and to study possible reconfiguration of the municipal building.
The Police Department Space Needs Committee has been spending the last few months investigating various possibilities for housing the department with its 14-officer force that currently works in a total 1,500 square feet area in a corner of the municipal building on Farmington Falls Road. A space needs studies conducted in 2001 and again in 2002, determined the long-term space size needs of the Farmington police station were 5,072 square feet and 8,520 square feet, respectively, which includes 1,200 square feet for cruiser bays.
The committee first looked into existing buildings that would accommodate the department. The former 10,000 square foot Rite Aid building on the Wilton Road in West Farmington was dismissed because extensive renovations would be needed and to lease it would cost $80,000 annually.
The former Nickerson car sales building on Farmington Falls Road, which for a short time served as Eagle’s Sport Shop, has a total square footage of 5,500, would cost 45,000 a year to lease. The committee found too many “limitations that would make it unsuitable for use a police facility,” according to a memorandum written by Town Manager Richard Davis, who served on the committee.
Another idea that met with defeat was for the town to acquire the Nickerson building and swap it for the University of Maine at Farmington facilities management building next door to the municipal building. UMF rejected that idea because the Nickerson building is too small for UMF’s needs and is further from campus.
The committee also considered an addition onto the current building to house the police station. Already extensively explored in the 2002 study which found among other things, the lot size at two acres to be too small to allow for adequate access and daily function of the police and fire departments and the public’s needs at the town office.
Another idea surfaced during the county’s space needs study of combining the Farmington police department’s station with that of the county’s dispatch center in a newly constructed building near the jail and sheriff’s office off the Fairbanks Road. The idea was to save money but was nixed by the committee due to the possible conflicts of building function between two different agencies, that the site is not a central location, in that, it’s further from the areas most calls originate.
The committee settled on the former town garage site at the intersection of High Street and Farmington Falls Road because it is centrally located, is a town-owned lot and Davis said it could serve as a “gateway to the community with the potential to make a statement to the public in terms of the importance the town places on its public buildings and governmental functions.”
Selectman Jon Bubier said he had concerns with the proposed location.
“Is it big enough?” he asked. “Farmington is growing. Twenty to 30 years out will the lot be big enough?” He wondered, too, about traffic flow and building a 7,500 to 10,000 square foot building on the lot.
“At this point, it’s more difficult to predict what would be needed in the future,” Davis said, referring to the overall recent economic downturn.
Selectman Chair Stephan Bunker said he thinks the proper site is important, but the town needs to move forward and look at what size would be needed first and then if the site can accomodate the recommendation.
Selectmen approved spending up to $12,000 for the firm of Bunker & Savage Architects of Augusta to develop concept plans for a police station and redefined town office.
The former town garage lot at High Street and Farmington Falls Road is the leading contender for a new Farmington police station.