Sharing the Farmington site idea rejected

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FARMINGTON – Now that the county’s building committee has rejected the latest idea of combining the dispatch and emergency management agency offices with a new Farmington police station at the former town garage location, it’s back to the drawing board.

Sheriff Dennis Pike said that idea was rejected by planners in part, because the site, with High Street and Farmington Falls Road bordering the slim property, would be too difficult to provide security for dispatch center.

“We can control security at the Fairbanks site better,” Pike said. The 14-acre Fairbanks site is currently home to the sheriff’s office where the dispatch center is now located and next door to the county jail. Both the sheriff’s office/dispatch center and the Farmington police department facilities, now located in the municipal building, all share the same problem of not enough space.

The site of the former Farmington Public Works garage at High Street and Farmington Falls Road was rejected by a committee looking into combining county and municipal offices.

The idea was suggested by Smith Reuter Lull Architects, a Lewiston-based firm. They have been working with the county government to redesign, and possibly add on to, the Franklin County Courthouse building and other facilities. The century-old courthouse has major structural and mechanical issues that include asbestos material use, chronic mold problems in the basement and tight space considerations. They have also been asked to look at the town’s needs for possible consolidation of facilities in order to save money.

Combining the Farmington police department with the county’s offices at a new facility on the Fairbanks site has also been batted around, but Police Chief Richard Caton, III, has several concerns about that idea.

“Is the move to Fairbanks best for Farmington?” Caton asked. His department’s offices are centrally located in town which can cut down on response time and the question of just how the town would share the building’s expenses would need to be figured out. Other possibilities for a police station are to acquire the University of Maine at Farmington’s facilities management building, a former Agway store, next to municipal building or to find another location for a new building.

What was agreed on, said Town Manager Richard Davis, is that “something needs to be done. The time is right now to appoint a committee to look into it.” At their regular meeting, selectmen agreed and decided that citizens, along with Chief Caton, a selectman, a UMF official will be appointed to the committee to research the possibilities.

“It’s years overdue,” Selectman Chair Stephan Bunker said.

In other business, selectmen negotiated a lease agreement with Jim Cassidy who wanted to use the former site of the Farmington Falls school, now a town-owned lot totaling .35 of an acre and assessed at $10,000, next to his property to store firewood for his business. The issue came up when it was discovered Cassidy was parking vehicles and stacking wood for sale on the lot. Town Manager Richard Davis had asked Cassidy to remove his property from the lot which, in turn, brought up the issue of what, if anything, to do with the lot deeded to the town in 2004 by MSAD 9.

Selectmen agreed they want to keep the lot town-owned for possible future use, such as a fire department substation, but agreed to lease it to Cassidy for $100 per month.

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