Scarborough panel to explore options for new public safety HQ

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SCARBOROUGH — Town councilors Wednesday approved forming an 11-member committee to gather information on a new fire and police building.

Councilors also approved an initial allocation of $50,000 for the work from the town’s Public Safety Capital Improvement Account. The account, which exceeds $617,000, was created in 2007.

With help from engineering consultants, the committee – which includes Fire Chief Michael Thurlow, Police Chief Robbie Moulton, two councilors, a local construction expert and and six residents – will advise the council about the location, site design and estimated cost of a new building.

Replacing the public safety building is part of a long-term municipal facilities plan the council discussed in March that evaluated public buildings that need to be upgraded over the next 10-25 years. Other projects include expanding both the library and Town Hall, and, in the long term, a new Community Services Center.

But a new public safety building is at the top of the list.

The Police and Fire departments have shared the building at 246 U.S. Route 1 since the late 1980s, when a two-story wing was added for the Police Department. The Fire Department has operated in the original one-story structure since 1964.

Conditions throughout the building are sub par, both chiefs said last week, with leaks and inefficient heating and cooling systems, and space is extremely tight.

Moulton said last week that when his department moved into the new building in 1989, “each office space was filled.”

Now, nearly 30 years later and with almost double the staff, the shortcomings are infringing on the ability of both departments to meet the needs of a town that continues to grow.

“In our business, we have to deal with what comes along, (and) we can never really say no; we find a way to provide that service, but that doesn’t mean we’re efficient at it or have the space to do it,” Moulton said last week.

Aware of the constraints, the town began the formal process of constructing a new building in 2008, when it conducted a feasibility study with the aim of bringing information to voters in a referendum.

Although a decision was put on hold to focus on the renovation of the Wentworth Intermediate School, the analysis determined both departments need a combined 46,000 square feet of space, and projected the cost at approximately $13.8 million.

The existing building is 20,750 square feet.

The newly formed committee will have until August 2017 to report back to the council.

“This is an exciting project,” Councilor Kate St. Clair said at the Nov. 2 meeting. “I hope we can get everyone from the town behind it.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

The Scarborough Police Department, on the south side of the public safety building that also houses the Fire Department, was built in 1989.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.