Officials await police station bids; After redesign, contract might come out of third round


After two failed attempts to attract bids that match Hampstead's budget for a new police station, officials say the third round of bids to be opened tomorrow might yield a contract.

Plans call for the former First National Bank building at 1112 Main St. to be renovated and transformed into a station by the spring, said Police Chief R. Kenneth Meekins Jr.

The project would accomplish three goals: give a growing police force in a growing town a real station; preserve a historic and stately downtown building; and enhance Main Street with a public agency. The town hall and police headquarters are now on Carroll Street, several blocks and two turns from Main Street.

"Right now, if you drive through town in Hampstead, you'd be hard-pressed to find the town hall or police station unless you know where to look," Meekins said. "This would give the town government a first-line presence on Main Street."

Meekins is reserving his excitement, however, until the bids are opened. The first and second round of bids came in over the $650,000 the Town Council approved in its 1999 capital improvement budget. The first round's lowest bid came in around $1 million. The lowest bid in the second round -- after the project was scaled back -- came in at $800,000.

Each time, the town sent the architect back to the drawing board to revise the project.

"The joke around here is that this is going to be the Ken Meekins Memorial Building," said Meekins.

The new station would have about 5,600 square feet on two floors. The current station in a corner of the Town Hall is no more than 400 square feet, Meekins guessed.

The room where prisoners are detained until they are photo- graphed and fingerprinted before taken to a bail review hearing has three large holes punched and kicked into the drywall, -- the work of an intoxicated domestic violence suspect, Meekins said.

There's only one detention room. Federal law requires separate rooms for adults and juveniles. When juveniles and adults are arrested at the same time, one or the other -- whoever is least volatile -- is detained in Meekins' office.

While Hampstead is still a low-crime area, Meekins said, the population has grown from 2,756 in 1990 to 4,419 this year. Another 2,000 residents are expected by the time new housing developments are built.

"The people who moved out here from Baltimore County and Baltimore City are used to having a police force they can call on," Meekins said. The force has grown from three officers to seven -- Meekins includes himself -- since 1990.

Desks are crammed into the front office, and prisoners come through the same door that everyone else uses, walking past clerical staff on the way to the detention room.

"It's just not safe," Meekins said.

The town has struggled with building a working police station while simultaneously restoring a prominent building on Main Street, said Town Manager Kenneth Decker.

"It has to serve the purposes of a modern law enforcement team," Decker said.

Some of the savings the town hopes to see in the latest round of bids will come from sacrificing some of the preservation inside the building.

For example, Meekins said, the tin ceiling will probably be covered over rather than restored -- and the same for some tile work.

The original plan was to preserve the building -- including the old vault in the center of the first floor -- and put most of the working rooms of the station in an addition on the back, Meekins said. But when bids came in around $1 million, that plan was scrapped.

Because the project would have to use only the existing building, the vault will have to be removed and the space used for things such as an interview room and restroom, Meekins said.

Pub Date: 10/11/99

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