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Bel Air commissioners approve $43,000 contract for consulting services on new police station project

The Bel Air Town Commissioners voted unanimously Monday evening to spend $43,290 for a feasibility study on building a new police headquarters.
The Bel Air Town Commissioners voted unanimously Monday evening to spend $43,290 for a feasibility study on building a new police headquarters. (Erika Butler / The Aegis)

The Town of Bel Air’s effort to build a new police headquarters has led the commissioners to agree to spend $43,290 to hire Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates to conduct a feasibility study.

The Board of Town Commissioners unanimously approved the contract with the architectural and design firm, which has offices in Towson, Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Charlottesville, Va., during their meeting Monday evening.

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Commissioner Brendan Hopkins thanked town staff for moving forward on the long-desired project to build a replacement for the aging and cramped facility — which is attached to Town Hall on North Hickory Avenue — currently occupied by the Bel Air Police Department.

“It’s definitely a needed project, and I’ll look forward to see the next stage of the process,” Hopkins said of the new facility.

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Town staff embarked on the initiative last year at the direction of the commissioners to “push this effort forward before the conditions of the space currently occupied by the police deteriorate any further,” Planning Director Kevin Small said.

“The police lack dedicated space for crucial tasks, proper equipment to perform required duties and vital security improvements typically found in most current law enforcement buildings,” Small said, reading from prepared remarks. “Several studies have been prepared in the past, however, no progress has been made to address the perceived inadequacies.”

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates’ varied portfolio of projects includes public safety buildings, such as the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville and Southern Precinct in Edgewood, according to the company’s website.

The town issued a request for proposals in November of 2017. Small said CRA was the lowest bidder out of the two finalists for the feasibility study contract.

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The firm also offers services such as a topographic survey, environmental assessment and “enhanced cost estimating” within its contract price, Small said.

The planning director had said during a March 3 commissioners’ and staff retreat that he wants to work with a consulting firm on the type of police station that could be built, where it could be built and at what cost.

Options include building a new station on municipal property at North Hickory and Lee Way, which is adjacent to Town Hall, building a new station elsewhere in town or a major expansion and renovation of the existing building, which is about 54 years old.

The cost could be in the millions, and town leaders discussed during the retreat that declaring property owned by the town as surplus and selling it to help raise money might be an option for financing at least part of the project.

During the recent retreat, Town Administrator Jesse Bane urged a “cautious and thorough” approach to declaring any property surplus.

Police Chief Charles Moore said after Monday’s meeting that he was happy that the contract with CRA was approved. He expressed his appreciation that the commissioners and other department heads understand the need for a new police station.

He said a new station will help improve officer morale and be good for the wider community, as the facility would be designed to have amenities such as a community meeting room.

“It’s going to allow us to become more efficient and be a better police department,” Moore said.

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