City sets forum on $1.45 million police HQ proposal

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen have scheduled a public informational meeting for this coming Tuesday on their proposed $1.45 million bond to fund a new 4,611-square-foot police station on North Main Street.
City residents will vote on May 14 on the police station bond proposal and also join residents in neighboring towns to decide on a $600,000 loan proposal to fund new roofing for Vergennes Union High School (see related story).
The police bond informational meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on May 7 in the basement of the city’s Green Street fire station, while a VUHS bond forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 6, at the school.
City Manager Mel Hawley said Bread Loaf Corp. architect Chris Huston will present details of a plan that cuts about 1,300 square feet and $400,000 from the police department proposal that city residents defeated in March by a handful of votes.
City officials, Police Chief George Merkel and Huston will then field questions about the proposal, which would allow the department of six full-time and four part-time personnel to move out of its 800-square-foot City Hall headquarters, possibly by the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.
The new plan calls for savings of about $300,000 in construction costs over the initial proposal, mainly due to the building redesign, but also due to savings on site development and land costs that city officials said are also due to the smaller structure. The project cost is now roughly $1.55 million.
Alderman also now plan to tap the city’s Water Tower Fund for $100,000 to lower the project’s tax impact. That fund is fed by cell phone companies that pay Vergennes to hang broadcast equipment on the former water tower behind city hall.
Hawley has estimated the tax impact of a $1.45 million bond at roughly $59 a year per $100,000 of assessed value, down from $75 a year for the original plan.
Gone from the proposal that was defeated in March are separate offices for the department’s sergeant and detective, fitness and intake rooms, and a drive-in evidence-processing garage. The function of the latter feature can be handled by the building’s sally port, officials said.
Some rooms have been moved around in the new plan. Most notably, an evidence storage room has been placed closer to the sally port on the building’s left side, the central patrol room has been expanded to make room for the sergeant and detective, the sizes of the hallways and front lobby were reduced, and the men’s and women’s locker rooms were moved to the right side of the patrol room, essentially changing places with the evidence room.
Hawley said this week city officials are still working with Bread Loaf on some design elements, especially the layout of the holding cells and booking room, but that the building size and overall cost would not be affected by design tweaks that could be ongoing through early summer.
Merkel told aldermen and members of the public last month the new plan would be adequate for the department’s operational needs.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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