Vergennes aldermen eye sites for new police HQ

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen will be researching potential sites for a new city police station in the next few weeks, although they have yet to commit to spending money to replace the department’s tiny two-room office in City Hall. 
On the list submitted to the city council by City Manager Mel Hawley on Tuesday and prepared by Hawley and Police Chief George Merkel was the option aldermen have eyed in recent months: an 8-acre, city-owned parcel off New Haven Road already known to have potential 1- and 3-acre sites.
But the council, in Hawley’s words, wanted to “look at other alternatives before taking any other steps” toward a new station at that site.
To that end, Hawley and Merkel cast a net around Vergennes for other sites that had at least an acre of developable land, had direct access to a main road, and was not in the middle of a neighborhood.
They presented these alternatives on Tuesday:
•  An undeveloped 45-acre parcel on Panton Road near the Panton line out of which a smaller parcel could be carved. Vermont Industrial Parks owns the land.
•  Another Vermont Industrial Parks parcel, this one of 14.4 acres off North Main Street out of which a smaller parcel could be subdivided.
•  Two buildings on the Northlands Job Corps campus on MacDonough Drive, either of which the report called “a significant renovation project.” The state of Vermont owns the land.
•  Two parcels off Armory Lane, one of 1.25 acres owned by Roderick and John Cole, and one owned by Housing Vermont near the senior center now under construction. A subdivision would be required for the latter parcel.
•  Two Green Street parcels. One lies on the west side of Bub’s Furniture Barn and would require a subdivision. The other is further south and is owned by the Vergennes-Panton Water District.
Hawley noted the city in the past deeded that land to the water district without compensation, and it was possible the favor could be returned.
Alderwoman Ziggy Comeau also pointed out there had been discussion at the council level several years ago that if the water district chose to build a new office at its Green Street property, its current office on leased land on Canal Street might be suitable for a city police station.
Hawley said that option should be added to the list that aldermen should visit before their Dec. 20 meeting. At that meeting, aldermen will discuss their next move. Hawley said other ideas would be welcome.
“If there are any other alternatives, I’m all ears,” Hawley said. “If there’s anything out there I’m missing, bring it forward.”
Hawley’s handout also quoted the city plan. That quote outlined the central issues facing aldermen as they consider a new police station:
“Consideration is under way to move the police out of City Hall into a separate police station. A move would improve space constraints and better align uses in the building to be more compatible with the administrative offices and the Opera House. However, costs for a move may be significant and will need to be balanced with the available resources of our small community.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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