Aldermen discuss sites, cost of new city police station

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen on Tuesday crossed a couple potential sites for a new police station off their list, but also discussed two new possibilities and addressed a station’s potential cost.
Taken off the list at the recommendation of the council’s police station committee were two properties on North Main Street, the Kennedy Brothers building and a 14-acre parcel owned by Vermont Industrial Parks, a subsidiary of Carrara & Sons Inc.
Speaking for the committee, Alderman Renny Perry said members thought Kennedy Brothers — which is now mostly vacant but is being considered for a grocery store — was best reserved for future economic development.
As for the land, aldermen had considered buying part of the larger parcel, but ruled that possibility out because it lacks enough frontage for two curb cuts. Aldermen on Tuesday said they did not want police to share access with another use, a situation that they believed could block officers from leaving in an emergency.
The properties added to the list are two that aldermen said have come onto the market: the Addison County Eagles clubhouse on New Haven Road, and the Vergennes Auto property on North Main Street, which is right next to the Vermont Industrial Parks land.
Aldermen said the Eagles’ building could be renovated and has the advantage of being mostly open inside. They also said the Vergennes Auto building would probably have to be torn down. While its lot is too small, more land to the rear could possibly be purchased from the larger lot next door.
Other contenders that remain on the list are the former Vergennes Building Supply property on North Main Street, another renovation project; the Denecker Chevrolet property on North Main Street, a renovation project that aldermen thought might come on the market but speculated might be too expensive; and the roughly 8-acre parcel of land that the city owns off New Haven Road that is accessed by a right-of-way.
Aldermen also said once the list is further narrowed down, something that should happen soon once possible purchase prices are known, the time would be right to talk about how much to spend on a new station or on renovating a structure into a station.
Perry said preliminary estimates should come soon.
“We need to get some numbers to know what we’re talking about,” Perry said.
In May, Police Chief George Merkel suggested a 20-room station with a sally port and an outbuilding on a lot of at least an acre. Some aldermen said on Tuesday Merkel might be aiming high.
“We have a plan in front of us that is an absolute Cadillac, if not a Mercedes,” said Alderman Peter Garon.
Senior Alderman Randall Ouellette said everything Merkel recommended might not be in the final version.
“We’re going to sit down with George’s wish list and pare it down to what it needs to be,” Ouellette said.
Mayor Michael Daniels advised some caution in cutting: He said aldermen should look to future needs because it is more expensive to “retrofit” a building rather than adding extra room “even if you don’t occupy all the space.”
City Manager Mel Hawley said one way to save money soon was to limit the number of choices to be investigated. Especially buildings that need to be renovated will require expensive design consultants, he said.
“That’s the next step,” Hawley said. “Let’s not spend money. Let’s narrow the field.”

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