City of Milford purchases land for new police station

MILFORD — It’s back to the drawing board for the Milford Police Department.

A new police station is in the works after the Milford City Council approved the purchase of two properties across the street from the current police department.

Previously owned by GROWMARK FS LLC., 401 NE Front St. was purchased for $875,000. Nearby, 409 NE Front St., owned by A-1 Auto Glass Inc., was purchased for $195,000. The council also approved a fee for Becker Morgan Group of $149,000 for design work.

That process is still in the beginning stages, according to Chief Kenneth Brown who says he’s excited to see the progress as Becker Morgan Group starts bringing their work to the table.

“Where they [council members] left it Monday night is they want to explore their options. We want to design the police station, and after it’s designed put a cost to that. Once a cost is put to that then we will need to get the public’s input on the design,” he said.

City Manager Eric Norenberg confirmed the public’s future opportunity at helping with the project when the time comes.

“Our goal is to engage the community in planning a functional and attractive headquarters that will not only meet the police department’s needs but also be accessible to Milford residents for community use,” he said.

The current station was built in 1978 and is 14,000 square feet, according to a memo Chief Brown and Mr. Norenberg to city council and Mayor Archie Campbell.

“At that time the building housed 15 sworn officers and civilians and served approximately 5,000 residents. Currently, the police station houses 32 police officers, 10 civilian personnel and is in operation 24-hours per day, seven days per week,” it reads.

The increase in officers and civilian personnel is directly related to the growth seen by the city which now surpasses 11,000 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau.

The prospect of a new police station has been in the eyes of local leaders for years. The city previously entertained the idea of a new police station back in 2011 but plans fell flat.

The project would have cost the community $13.5 million if the former price tag with inflation remained accurate, Chief Brown noted.

Analysis done at the time revealed minimal security at the current building, storage overcrowding, undersized facilities and other major concerns.

“But this architect doesn’t want to rely on that information. So much has changed from 2011,” he added. “It seems like it was just yesterday, but a lot happened since then. Things change. What used to be the size of an office changed, too. What was a stack of paper is now a computer. There’s inflation, increased building costs. . .”

Officers at the police station, as it stands today, continue to struggle with the same issues they dealt with in 2011 —now with more officers and space demands than ever before.

“A lot of our space issues is because of the things we have to keep in storage for a long time. The radio room downstairs is packed full of boxes of paper.

The archivist came down and said, ‘That’s not good.’ We’ve had water down in the radio room, too,” Chief Brown said. “We’ve totally outgrown our locker room. Now that we’ve added five more officers, it’s getting tight.”

The officers will have to begin using part of the weight room as it currently exists for more lockers. Storage space also will remain a concern as the department figures out how to best use an existing building on one of the new properties purchased while members wait for a new building of their own.

“I think the community is ready,” Mayor Campbell said. “I think with people moving in and buying homes, that’s going to help cover the cost with the extra revenue, taxes and impact fees. It’s going to help us from a police station standpoint.”

The project will have a few other benefits for the community such as added security for the officers, community members and prisoners who find their way through the building.

Chief Brown said, “People come in to the lobby to report a crime. At the moment, we don’t really even have space to bring them back to talk to them.

“We often have fights in the lobby because we don’t have the space to separate people. That’s a safety liability to the public. That will be different in the new building.”

A sallyport, or a secure entryway, will add to the safety of services provided by officers at the Milford Police Department.

“The No. 1 [priority] is the safety. Speaking about safety and about liability to the city — right now, we walk prisoners out of the parking lot and across the lot, handcuffed. When someone escapes, most of the time they have two options here — the river or across Route 14. We’re very liable for them,” Chief Brown said. “With the new facility that will all change. The police officer will drive into a sallyport, the door comes down and there’s very little chance of them escaping at that point. We’re also not exposing them to the public.”

The sallyport and other features of the new station will help Milford become accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies — an accreditation it cannot obtain in its current building.

“The certified police station, to me, is very important for the town,” Mayor Campbell said. “It’s a big challenge, I think. We need this police station.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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