Architects suggest consolidating police, Sheriff’s Department facilities

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FARMINGTON – A project to renovate county facilities in town may end up solving a longstanding complaint of a local police force.

A Lewiston firm, Smith Reuter Lull Architects, was recently hired by the county commissioners to draw up plans for a much-needed renovation of the aging Franklin County Courthouse and other county facilities. Studying the space constraints involved, Smith Reuter Lull is now looking at shuffling several departments around, and creating a new facility near the Franklin County Jail.

This new building could theoretically house the Sheriff’s Department and dispatch office, both of whom have said they need more room. The local Emergency Management Agency would also be located in that building, giving them close contact with dispatch.

However, the building possibly could also serve as a new home for the Farmington Police Department. That department, with access to only a few hundred square feet in the municipal building, has requested more space for years, an issue that is constantly debated in selectmen boards, town meetings and elsewhere.

“The space is totally inadequate,” Town Manager Richard Davis said.

Combining the two law enforcement department facilities would allow for cost savings and require less space, architects suggest. They could share training areas, locker rooms, a lobby and possibly interview rooms. While some separation would be needed, Police Chief Richard Caton said that the idea was worth discussing.

“I think there is some potential to share resources and save money,” he said.

Financially, construction-wise, the combination may be at least partially covered through state grants designed to promote consolidation in emergency services. Commissioners unanimously approved allowing the architects to move forward in their planning at today’s meeting, including allowing them to begin actively researching grants and other funding options.

Other possible shifts would be to move the District Attorney’s Office and victim’s advocate office out of the courthouse basement, perhaps shifting the probate court across the street into the district courthouse. The planning process has so far consisted of analyzing existing systems and the architects meeting frequently with a building committee consisting of people who use the building.

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