Janesville68.1°

Milton police to get new HQ

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Neil Johnson
October 11, 2012

— Roof leak buckets, moldy carpeting, cramped workspaces and outdoor parking soon will be things of the past for the Milton Police Department.

The department is getting new digs.

The city council has authorized the city to pay $322,000 to purchase the former Dean medical building on the city's east side, City Administrator Jerry Schuetz confirmed Wednesday. The move came late Tuesday during a special budget planning session.

Schuetz said attorneys for the city and the owners still were working Wednesday to finalize the deal, which would include the city paying $22,000 in taxes owed on the property.

Under the proposed deal, the city would take ownership of the 6,800-square-foot building and two acres of surrounding property and move its police department and municipal court there.

The former Dean medical building at 710 S. Janesville St. is assessed at $910,500, according to city records. The building was built in 1990 and has been vacant since 2010. It went on the market earlier this year.

The city for weeks has been in negotiations to purchase the building. Officials have said the building would solve a space crunch for officer workspace, secure areas and evidence storage.

The current police station at 120 Parkview Drive has one locker room that serves both male and female employees on a staff that's nearly doubled in the past 15 years, officials said. During one recent visit to the station by The Gazette, two officers were seen using a police conference room to sort medications left in the department's prescription drug drop-off box.

The department has been grappling with maintenance, including chronic roof leaks, and a shortage of vehicle storage, officials have said.

Alderman Brett Frazier said the police department and the community deserve a better police headquarters.

"We owe it to our community to make sure that the police department is not some Taj Mahal, but that they're in a position to make sure the community stays safe and to do their jobs in an effective way," Frazier said.

The police department has been at its current location since 2001. Since then, the city has spent more than $500,000 on renovations and repairs to the building, according to city records.

In a written statement this week, Mayor Tom Chesmore praised the council for deciding to buy the former Dean building and "stop throwing good taxpayer money at bad buildings."

Frazier echoed the sentiment.

"Do you keep nickel-and-diming it, or do you do invest in solving long-term problems?" Frazier said.

It's unclear when the police department could move, but the former Dean building will need work to be converted into a police station.

Schuetz said the city would need to build a garage and sally port to house the police department's vehicle fleet.

The building also will need interior renovations, although officials say the building wouldn't need to be fully gutted because it has secure and non-secure workspaces the city can easily modify.

Schuetz estimates renovation costs would range between $1.2 million and $1.8 million.

A 2010 city study showed it could cost $2 million to build a new police station. That estimate did not include land acquisition.

The council has yet to decide whether it would use the city's cash reserves or issue bonds to pay down the cost of the building purchase and renovations. Schuetz said a decision on financing options could come during budget planning sessions this month.

Schuetz said the council must decide in the coming months what to do with the current police station once it's vacant.

Frazier said that he believes the building, which is a former pump house and city hall, could end up being torn down for future development linked to the Goodrich Square redevelopment plan.

"Everybody can carry out one of the rain-collection buckets we've had in there, but everything else can go," he said.



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