The Millsboro Town Council will meet this coming week for a second special session to further discuss plans for a new town hall and more space for the overcrowded police department.
The meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5, two days after the regular town council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. That meeting will be on Tuesday, instead of the usual first Monday of the month, due to the Labor Day holiday.
When they gathered for the first special session, on Thursday, Aug. 8, council members looked at plans for buildings and considered estimates, before a three-hour dialogue that resulted in them calling for a smaller town hall and considering moving the police station into the current town hall building on Wilson Highway. The police station is currently at 307 Main Street.
The transition would take about four years.
This week, Town Manager Sheldon Hudson told the Coastal Point that he and Mayor Michelle Truitt are “certainly hopeful that council will make some final determinations at the Sept.5 meeting relative to the locations of the future town hall and future police station.
“I have asked the Town’s engineers to provide firm, detailed estimates of the project costs during the meeting so council will have the data they need to make informed decisions,” Hudson said.
“We want them to identify ways to sharpen the pencil. We are asking that both Freddy Bada, with Moonlight Architecture in Lewes, who we hired to design town hall, and Mike Wigley of Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc., in Salisbury, who is designing the new police station, to come back with firm prices and concepts that the town can consider,” Hudson said after the first special meeting.
“Come back with concepts and some numbers, reasonable estimates what the new town hall might cost, estimates for both buildings. What can we do to avoid certain costs? Maybe using different materials, like a metal roof vs. a shingled roof. There is also talk of making the council chamber and public meeting room a little smaller than we were originally thinking about and using the meeting room as an overflow room for Town Hall meetings, with monitors,” Hudson said.
Early talk of a 300-seat council chamber was changed as discussion progressed, especially after Councilman John Thoroughgood said cities such as Salisbury and Fruitland, Md., don’t try to provide hundreds of chairs. The only meetings that draw large crowds are those with contentious matters on the agenda, he said.
“We want a nice facility, a very attractive gateway, something striking. It’s also important to the Town that it not be ostentatious or a Taj Mahal. We want it to fit in with the surrounding area downtown,” Hudson said.
It will take about two and a half years to put up a new town hall, and another one and a half years to renovate the existing structure for police department occupancy, for a total of four years. The two projects probably can’t be done concurrently, Hudson said, because town hall can’t be occupied while renovation is under way, unless it could be accomplished without creating noise and dust that would irritate employees.
Truitt spoke adamantly against having one building for both administration and the police.
“I have to tell you, I’m not in favor of that,” said Truitt, whose husband is a police officer.
“It’s not secure. With the liability in this day and time, I just don’t have a good feeling about it,” she said.
Police Chief Brian Calloway said joining the two could be disruptive for civilian employees.
Wigley unveiled a plan for a 16,000-square-foot police department, with front entrance, entrances from both sides and a sally port. A two-story building would cost about $6.4 million, he said, while renovating town hall for the police department would cost $3.9 million.
Calloway said he would like to “see the staff be given something right away,” without having to wait four years.
The police department should be able to accommodate 30 police officers, with separate areas for male and female officers, he said.
Thoroughgood said moving the police department to the current town hall would provide more room for it to grow, since it’s a spacious building, although it would displace the town museum.
Calloway said the police department, in years to come, might also need a dispatch center, with towers and related equipment, and that should be considered.
Councilman Tim Hodges asked why town leaders were considering a building without adequate parking, adding that the town hall parking lot was full when the council met on Aug. 5, but Thoroughgood said there’s enough parking downtown, with 138 spaces only one block away from where town hall is set to be built. Additional land could be purchased to make a parking lot.
Another option is renovating the existing police station, using that space for the council chamber and meeting room, and building a new 10,000-square-foot building, Bada said, estimating the cost to refurbish the 3,000-square-foot police station at $125 per square foot, or $375,000, plus site work.
Bada said the existing police station is in good condition and that council meetings could be held there. The room currently used for booking could become a break-out room, and has plumbing for the council’s private restroom, he said. The mechanical room would need a new system.
But Hodges objected to council meetings being held in a separate building from town hall, saying it would be inconvenient to “run across the parking lot” carrying papers and informational packets from one place to the other, especially on rainy days. Hodges said he’d rather see the land the police station is on used for additional parking space and a new town hall built.
By Susan Canfora