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Sykesville project on tap


Sykesville breaks ground tomorrow on nearly $600,000 in additions that will create a spacious meeting room in its Town House and double the size of its police station.

The town hopes to keep construction costs down by serving as its own general contractor with Mayor Jonathan Herman overseeing the work.

"We are getting local subcontractors to bid individually on the various aspects of this job," said Herman, who owns a building restoration business. "This way we can lower the costs in segments."

Many smaller contractors, who are often hesitant to bid on major projects, have submitted proposals for the work, Herman said.

"There is an inherent cost savings in being our own general contractor for these jobs," said Matthew Candland, town manager. "We will do this piece by piece and getting plenty of bids from capable, skilled and smaller subcontractors."

Officials restored the Town House, seat of municipal government, to its original colors, wood siding and architecture several years ago.

The former home of a town businessman dominates downtown from atop a hill overlooking Main Street.

The one-story addition to the rear of the building will include a 24-foot-by-24-foot council chamber and new restrooms. The much-needed additional space will be subdued and unobtrusive, Candland said.

"We are aesthetically hiding the addition and making it compatible in color and architecture with the rest of the Town House," Candland said. "No one will see it from the front of the building."

The addition will have clerestory windows for extra light, wood siding and a lead-coated copper roof to match the existing building. Underneath the addition, the plan calls for a basement that the town will use for storage. Dampness makes the original Town House's dirt cellar unusable.

The council meets in what was originally the living room of the home, a space that can seat about 20 people. When officials tackle an issue that draws a larger audience, the crowd often spills out into the hallway, adjoining rooms and, sometimes, up the stairs.

The new space should have room for at least 40 people.

"The new council chamber will give us a greater and more comfortable seating capacity," Candland said. "It is important to make public meetings comfortable for the public."

The council will probably move its old conference table into the new space, but members have unanimously requested an upgrade from the straight-back wooden chairs.

The project includes landscaping and accessible entries into both the Town House and the police station. The buildings will be connected by a wide walkway.

Doubling the size of the police station, built 13 years ago in a restored maintenance shop near the Town House, will give the seven-member force space for more offices, equipment, lockers and exercise rooms, community activities and storage.

"We are taking what was an old cinder-block barn and changing the facade, redesigning it to make it architecturally more pleasing," Candland said. "It will be a masonry building with a pitched roof and with colors that match the Town House. Residents will know from the look of them that both buildings are public buildings."

The plan calls for an addition to the police station that is slightly more than 2,000 square feet with a small wing to house an emergency generator. In case of a crisis, the police station would become the town's command center.

The expansion will include a lobby and a community room for the services that officers provide to the town's nearly 4,500 residents.

Chief John R. Williams said nearly 80 percent of his job is community-service driven. Office equipment forced the volunteers who assist police officers out of the small space they were once allotted.

The project also calls for separate jail cells for juveniles and adults and a self-contained area for activities such as fingerprinting.

Adding onto the side of the building will enable officers to continue using the station during construction.

A new, more secure and fully equipped building could help the town police force secure national certification, Williams said. Meeting those stringent standards could help with grant applications and reduce insurance costs, he said.

Sykesville police handle about 2,000 calls annually, most of them in the town. Officers also provide backup to state police and sheriff's deputies whenever assistance is requested. Those calls will increase as the town grows, Williams said.

"We are really grateful to get this project budgeted and started," Williams said.

He praised town leaders for their foresight and progressive thinking on community needs.

"This expansion should take us quite a way into the future," he said.

The work should take about six months to complete, with little or no disruption to town business, Candland said.

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