After a 15-month process of searching for a long-term solution to outdated and overcrowded facilities, a master plan for the Douglas J. Watson Municipal Complex is headed to the Auburn City Council for approval later this month.
Rather than moving forward with plans to renovate and add on to existing buildings, the new plan unveiled last week by Montgomery-based Seay Seay & Litchfield Architects proposes demolishing Fire Station 1 and the existing police and judicial building to make way for a new complex.
“This solution right here is a solution for the next 30 or 40 years for this building,” said city Public Safety Director Bill James.
A two-story, 70,000-square-foot building would replace the 50-year-old fire station and police and judicial building and would house several departments. The building would cost about $21 million.
“There’s just a need to get to the 21st century and have a modern facility that accommodates ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], accommodates both genders and just makes it more functional for them every day,” James said.
The new u-shaped complex would stretch from Fire Station 1's current location on Magnolia Avenue to the location of the current police department on Ross Street.
The north end of the building would contain separate spaces for council chambers and a courtroom, which currently share a space. The separation would allow for better security measures, such as installing metal detectors.
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The current courtroom also has three entrances, two public and one employee, which make it more difficult to secure, said David Dorton, director of public affairs for the city.
The new complex would also include stronger security areas for police parking and judicial functions.
At the current facility, police cars all park in an open, unsecured parking lot, and the sally port at the police station entrance is similarly accessible. The new facility would include a fence and gate separating official vehicles from the public.
The judicial department also shares a hallway with the police division at the existing complex. The new complex will include more privacy and security for transporting criminals.
The new police station, facing Ross Street, would expand to accommodate the force’s numbers.
A main issue for the current complex is overcrowding in the police department, which first stemmed from absorbing the University police into the city’s force, James said.
“There’s more than twice the staff occupying the building now than when it was first built over 40 years ago,” said Police Chief Paul Register. “We want to maintain that visibility here, crime prevention, through the presence of the building and officers coming and going from the building. So the location is also something we feel strongly about.”
Auburn Fire Division Chief John Lankford agreed.
“For us it wasn’t as much of a space issue as it was for the police. … It was more of the station had kind of served its life and needed a major remodel,” Lankford added.
The south end of the building facing Magnolia Avenue would house the new fire division, which will include facilities for male and female firefighters, something it currently doesn’t have.
During the construction, those in Fire Station 1 would be the only people relocated, though the city has not finalized where those workers would be relocated to, Dorton said.
The proposed development plan also includes room for future development divided into several stages, including potential public buildings, a parking deck, a park, a plaza and renovations to Felton Little Park.
The next step for development would be approval to purchase Carolyn Apartments along East Glenn Avenue and incorporate it into the municipal property.
Tentatively, a revised contract for the new plan will be put before the City Council for approval at the second September meeting. James said he anticipates approval.
If approved, construction could begin by summer 2017, with 18–24 months of construction.
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