Trading places: Millsboro mulls swapping town hall with PD station

MILLSBORO — Land acquisition and structure demolition are in the works as part of a plan that could result in a venue swap and new homes for Millsboro’s police department and town hall.

A plan under consideration would have the police department move to the Millsboro Town Center, and the current police headquarters and other town-owned land be the location for a new municipal town hall/civic facility.

“The tentative plan is to make this (town center) the police station and make that the new town hall,” said Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson at the Monday town council meeting.

“I think from a cost standpoint it has potential to be more cost-effective to do it this way.”

“There have been numerous man hours, looking at properties and looking at what would be best suited for the town. But also, what would be the best option for getting the best bang for our buck if you will,” said Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway, emphasizing this is among several options.

“We have looked at all options. And an option would be to renovate town hall as the police station and build a new town hall here on Main Street. That is an option. Right now, we are in the planning phases of doing that, to find out what would be more cost-effective.”

Mr. Hudson said this option was first forwarded by Millsboro Mayor John Thoroughgood. “The mayor gets all the credit. It was his idea,” said Mr. Hudson.

Mayor Thoroughgood was out of out town and not present at Monday’s council meeting.

The town center at 322 Wilson Highway is more centrally located in a town that is experiencing tremendous residential and commercial growth.

The current police station is sandwiched between Main Street and Washington Street on the eastern edge of the town leading to the Rt. 24 bridge. A police base at the town center location would provide easier response options.

“Millsboro Town Hall would be a better solution for that. You can go to multiple areas to be able to go different directions, where here, we are limited to one way. We are at the edge of town limits,” said Chief Calloway.

“When you think about it, we don’t normally go east. When we leave our police station, we have to go west on (Del.) 24. If you respond to any emergency complaint, we have one way to leave here, which can present a challenge.”

The bidding process is on deck, targeting for demolition the town-owned house property adjacent to the police station and the former Millsboro Auto Supply property, which the town is in the process of purchasing.

“We have looked at maybe expanding this building (police station). That was an option, and we found that with this building it would really be just too costly do that.” said Chief Calloway.

“Then, we also looked at the plan for police station to be at the property where the Millsboro Auto Supply is and the blue home adjacent to us. That it is still a feasible plan. It’s not off table completely. But we had to look at the cost of that building, to what it would cost for the retro-fitting of town hall and would maybe there be a benefit for the police department to go over to town hall, and town hall come over here. Town hall is quite big. And is that complete building (currently) being as utilized as what we would use it for?”

In addition to town offices, the Millsboro Town Center is home to a museum and a reception area. It is not yet known whether they would remain if it becomes the new police station.

“Odds are the reception hall would go away,” Mr. Hudson said.

One thing yet be determined is the fate of the current police station.

“There has been some talk about possibly rehabbing it and maybe gutting it,” said Mr. Hudson. “It’s a brick building. That is kind of up in the air, for now.”

Initially, the town had put money away with the intention of renovating, expanding and/or building a new police station in the area of the current headquarters.

“Numbers will all change,” said Mr. Hudson. “Effectively, we’re starting from scratch.”

“We are back at the drawing board,” said Chief Calloway. “We are looking at all feasible options. Fortunately, now, we have the property to say, ‘OK, if we did it here, what would it look like? And what would it cost? What are the benefits. What are the drawbacks?”

“Again, all of that focus is on us being good stewards of tax dollars and making sure if we can do this what is the best option that we can be able to get what we need and what is best for the town?” said Chief Calloway. “We don’t want to raise taxes. We certainly want to be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars.”

If this option pans out, Mr. Hudson foresees a new town hall serving as a welcoming gateway for those entering Millsboro on John J. Williams Highway from the east.

“An incredibly beautiful gateway as you are coming up that hill. I think it has got a lot of potential,” said Mr. Hudson.

“Depending, it could end up not only being a town hall but maybe some green space, or some parking, because there is a need for parking downtown.”

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