The holding cells haven't been used in about six years, the roof leaks, the paint is peeling and prisoners are handcuffed to pipes as a security measure.
But Sgt. Wayne Howard, who has spent 23 years assigned to Baltimore County police's Towson precinct, is going to miss the old Towson station house.
"It has a character to it that's all its own," said Howard, a 29-year veteran.
County officials broke ground yesterday on a $5.1 million Towson police station at Bosley and Susquehanna avenues to replace the 72-year-old precinct house.
"Whatever we do, on and off the streets, to help the police, we have to make sure our officers are equipped to do the job," County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger told about 20 county officials, police officials and community leaders in a ceremony yesterday.
Construction at the 1-acre site is expected to begin in two to three weeks and take one year to complete, said Glenn W. Birx, an architect with Ayers/Saint/Gross, the Baltimore architectural firm hired to design the building.
Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman, said the three-story brick station, built for $3,900 in 1927, is being replaced because "it's too old, it's too overcrowded and it's too small."
Ruppersberger said yesterday that he has not decided what to do with the old station at 308 Washington Ave., a block east of where the new building will be located.
"We'll have to get input from the community, talk to the councilman for that area and our own building staff and see what the possibilities are," Ruppersberger said. "We have a year to work it out."
The new station will be a base of operations for 103 officers, two cadets and two civilians.
The two-story, 13,000-square-foot building will be about twice the size of the old station. It will include seven holding cells, a bail hearing room with video cameras, an exercise room for officers, and equipment for fingerprinting, taking mug shots and writing police reports on computers, Toohey said.
Capt. Charles Rapp, commander of the Towson precinct, said one amenity, the picturesque lamps that flank the front of the Washington Avenue building, will be taken to the new building.
"We want to make sure to keep some of the old building's character," Rapp said.