Brunswick council approves land purchase for new police station

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council voted 8-1 Monday to purchase land at the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood streets for construction of a new police station.

The panel, with the exception of Councilor Benet Pols, supported the adoption of an ordinance that authorizes acquisition of four properties and borrowing of no more than $1.175 million to cover the purchase, sales commission, demolition of existing buildings, the town’s portion of taxes, legal fees, permits and a contingency.

The total area of the land, which includes the former Brunswick House of Pizza, is about 1.61 acres. The cost to acquire the land itself is about $1 million.

Town Manager Gary Brown noted that development at the site will address concerns about use of the existing buildings, blighted conditions and traffic.

“We know that the intersection of Pleasant, Mill and Stanwood is in great need of some reconfiguration,” Brown said. “We believe that if we put the police station there, our involvement will help trigger participation by (the Maine Department of Transportation) to help reconfigure that intersection. If MDOT doesn’t step forward, we still have to address that situation.”

John Donovan of McKeen Street, who voiced several objections, said “the council should stop and reflect what this acquisition – the building of the new station, and then undoubtedly what will be required to improve the traffic access at that intersection – is going to really mean (cost-wise).”

Pols asked about the town’s ability to extend its options on the properties, allowing more time to determine what the ultimate cost of the police station could be before the town commits to a purchase.

Brown said that extensions might be possible with some properties, but that he wasn’t sure about all of them.

Councilors Margo Knight and David Watson expressed support for the project from two different perspectives.

Knight noted that “taking control of this corner, which has been in a blighted state for a long time, is a way of improving the economic development. It would be an action to really bring economic development into our town, to attract other residents (and) businesses.”

For Watson, who served almost 25 years with the Brunswick Police Department, the move to a new building from the current Federal Street headquarters would bring the department out of what some councilors called a dungeon.

“That department needs to move, and it needs to move very quickly,” Watson said. “Since Brunswick has had a Police Department, it has always operated out of a dungeon. First it was the dungeon at the old Town Hall, and now the present dungeon, and believe me, it’s a dungeon.”

Recalling several times when sewer water would back up into the hallway, Watson said the current location is not an exciting place to work, but a dangerous and crowded one.

“It does hamper the ability of our police officers and our Police Department to serve this community,” he said. “We need a modern Police Department to serve this community in the way it needs and deserves to be served.”

Brown said the ordinance will take 30 days to go into effect, and that the town is doing title search and environment work on the properties. He said he expects the properties to be cleared by Christmas.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.