HUNTERSVILLE – After years of debate, Huntersville is set to purchase a new police station.
The town board voted Monday, Oct. 17, to approve moving forward in securing a loan to purchase a foreclosed building in The Park that will be up fitted and begin serving as the police department’s base of operations by next summer.
The town will purchase the nearly 27,000-square-foot building for $4.2 million and is expected to spend about $500,000 on retrofitting the former medical building with more offices, improved security and secured rooms for evidence and prisoners. The loan will be for up to $6 million to cover cost overruns. The votes Monday allowed the town to begin the loan process and put up $25,000 in earnest money. The Local Government Commission will need to approve the measure before the town can approve the deal, but with the town’s AAA bond rating and current cash reserves, it is expected that town will get approval easily, officials said.
“This is a big deal for us,” Huntersville Police Chief Phil Potter said after the vote. “This is a big step for the town and its police department. We’re very pleased by this.”
A study commissioned by the town said the new facility was desperately needed as the department’s 92 employees were crammed into it’s Gilead Road office, which was intended for a police department a third of its size.
Potter, who hadn’t told his officers about the possibility of moving, said he emailed his staff from Monday’s meeting.
“I think they’re going to be happy about this,” he said.
This would end years of debate over how much the town should spend on a new police department, how to finance the construction and where it should be placed. This summer, the board approved a nearly $16 million bond referendum to fund building a new police station on North Church Street at the 32-acre Anchor Mill site. The board later pulled that bond from the November ballot after a tough budget process and a still shaky economy. It was the third consecutive year the bond had been considered but tabled because of the economy.
Officials found the 9630 Julian Park Ave. building only weeks ago and have moved quickly to finalize the purchase. Former Cornelius Mayor and current Realtor Gary Knox was the first to bring the building to the board as a possible new police station.
The commissioners took time out of Monday’s meeting to congratulate Potter and thank the staff for putting the deal together. “We’re going to get a new police department at a third of the cost of what we originally were considering, and the officers will be able to get in there sooner,” Commissioner Ron Julian said. “I’m pretty proud of this board and this staff for pulling that off.”
“This is the highlight of my two years on this board,” Commissioner Danae Caulfield said.
Sarah McAulay was credited as being an integral part of getting the town to consider purchasing the building.
“This deal would be dead in the water if it wasn’t for Sarah McAulay,” Commissioner Charles Jeter said after the meeting. “She was the one who really made the town take notice and get on board with this plan. She’s, as always, way ahead of us in thinking.” McAulay took her normal demure approach, saying everyone deserved the credit.
Moving the department is going to be a logistical undertaking, Potter said, but added he had done it twice before at his previous department so he is well prepared.
“It’s going to be quite a bit as we need to make sure to secure evidence and move things over,” he said. “I would guess that by April we’ll really begin the thinking about moving and hopefully be in the new building before July 1.”
It is unclear what will happen to the town’s current police station and the neighboring building, which was purchased earlier this year to help with overcrowding.
The new building addresses all of the issues mentioned in the town’s study and will allow the department to continue to expand, Potter said. “This new building is good for us right now, and will be good for us in five years,” Potter said. “And I expect it will suit our needs for many years to come as we continue to grow.”
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