Bel Air seeks public input Tuesday on future police station plans

This story is updated from an earlier version with more details about options to be discussed.

Bel Air residents are being asked to give their input on potential upgrades to the town’s police headquarters.

A public input meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27, starting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss a feasibility study recommendations for improvements to the town’s sole police facility, currently located on the ground floor of Town Hall, which is off North Hickory Avenue.

According to an announcement from town government, residents who attend Tuesday’s meeting will have the opportunity to review potential options, ask questions and provide feedback.

Since last year, town officials have been discussing if they should modernize the existing police station or build a new facility, either adjacent to Town Hall near the corner of Hickory Avenue and Lee Way or at some other location on land the town currently owns or could consider acquiring. Another potential location would be a surface parking lot across from the Hickory Avenue parking garage.

The town put out a request for proposals and in March the Board of Town Commissioners the board agreed to spend $43,290 to hire Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, an architectural and design firm with offices in Towson, Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Charlottesville, Va., to conduct the feasibility study.

“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,” town Planning Director Kevin Small said in requesting that the consultant be hired. “Several studies have been prepared in the past, however, no progress has been made to address the perceived inadequacies.”

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh’s hiring came a couple of weeks after the commissioners discussed the police station situation in detail during a retreat held at the Bel Air Armory.

Small, who has been working with the consultants, as has Police Chief Charles Moore, said Tuesday that the consultants have come up with three options: a wholesale renovation of the police area and other spaces in the existing Town Hall building; a renovation of mostly the current police space in Town Hall and construction of a new police building on the town-owned surface parking lot across from the parking garage, which has public metered spaces and some leased spaces.

“We want to hear comments from the general public,” said the planning director, who added that following Tuesday night’s meeting, they will most likely take a week or two to either refine one of the three options or possibly come up with another one.

The Hickory Avenue site is frequently used for overflow parking for the Bel Air Library, a situation Small acknowledged. If the town leaders decide to build the police station there, he said, some future accommodation would be made for library patrons.

Regardless if the existing station is renovated or a new one is built somewhere else, the project is expected to run millions of dollars and is likely to have an impact of future town budgets for several years, town officials said.

One proposal discussed during the March retreat was to consider selling existing property the town owns that it is not using, with the proceeds being used to help defray the cost of the police station project.

As with the entire Town Hall building, the police headquarters is nearly 55 years old.

About a decade ago, town officials planned to undertake a major reconstruction or replacement of the Town Hall building – a project that would have encompassed a new police facility; however, they eventually shelved that plan because of the 2008-09 economic recession and the potential cost.

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