Vergennes eyes land for police

 

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen at their April 12 meeting said they would like to retain the better of two building sites on a city-owned 8.13-acre parcel off New Haven Road as a possible future home for a new police station.

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes has also been interested in the parcel, which was owned by the Vergennes ID school district and deeded to the city in 2010 when the ID board was dissolved per a citywide vote.

Aldermen agreed with City Manager Mel Hawley’s recommendation that the city hold onto at least part of the land, which is accessed by a 50-foot right-of-way off New Haven Road’s east side and is near city schools.

Hawley made that recommendation after assessing not only the police department’s needs, but also those of the other branches of city government.

“This site does lend itself to a location for the police department,” Hawley said. “We need to be planning for the future. Is it the best location for a police department? Maybe not. But it is a good location.”

Aldermen at the Tuesday meeting asked Hawley to contact club officials to explain their decision. Hawley had not had a chance to reach club teen director Mike Reiderer by Wednesday morning, but Reiderer said the second buildable site on the parcel — about an acre — might also meet the club’s needs.

He said the club’s board would continue to look at all its options. But Reiderer envisioned a building of roughly 3,000 square feet, and said because the site is close to schools — and their fields — that the smaller site was not as big a factor. Nor did he consider a location near police a drawback, citing the club’s good relationship with the department.

“Off the top of my head ... I would imagine an acre would be just fine for us,” he said. “We have no intention of looking at some superstructure here that would take up a ton of space.”

Hawley said he would draw up a site plan for a building that could be 4,000 to 4,500 square feet, plus parking and impoundment lots, and double-check whether it would fit on the larger of the two potential building sites on the land.

But he sounded confident that all that would be necessary would fit on the site.

“That developable site of about 3 acres is sufficient for a police department,” Hawley said.

Aldermen said they had no immediate plans to ask residents to fund a police station, although councils have batted around the idea for at least a decade.

Before they met on Tuesday, Police Chief George Merkel supplied aldermen with a list of shortcomings that covered a full page. Most focused on the lack of space in the department’s two-room office in City Hall, which lacks storage, interview rooms, bathrooms, office space, changing rooms, and a holding room, among other typical station features.

Aldermen have also noted over the years that the shared entrance with the Vergennes Opera House and city offices is not ideal.

If and when a new station becomes a reality, Mayor Michael Daniels suggested the project be done properly.

“I’d like to see the building built once,” Daniels said. “Build it right.”

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.


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