The plan to move the Harvard Police Department into a new home has moved forward.
City Council members have approved a $5 million bond issuance for a new police station and possible improvements to City Hall. The city must pay a total of $325,000 annually over the course of the 20-year loan with a 2.65% interest rate for the project, City Administrator Dave Nelson said.
The city has been making a similar annual payment for its debt related to the tax increment finance district. The TIF district is expiring in 2022. Money the city previously budgeted to go toward the TIF loan will now go toward the bond debt, Nelson said.
“It will be theoretically even in terms of operations,” he said.
The city also has cash reserves it can use for debt payments before the TIF expiration, he said.
The project has been discussed for years – and in the works for months. Construction on the new building is expected to begin in spring 2020 and work on City Hall could begin this winter, if needed, said Mayor Mike Kelly.
“The [police station] currently requires significant maintenance just to bring it up to code,” the mayor said. “There are significant issues with the mechanics and it’s not [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant.”
The current police station at 201 W. Front St. was built as a Loyal Order of Moose lodge in the 1950s. The police department has operated out of the building for about 30 years. The building has maintenance and flooding problems, and there isn’t enough storage room for evidence, police officials have said.
City staff used to work in the building, as well, until they relocated to the current City Hall, 201 W. Diggins St, about eight years ago.
The new station is planned for property directly adjacent to City Hall. The station is expected to be a single-story building with a basement and space in the front of the facility for a community hall, which will be used for City Council meetings and other public purposes, Kelly said.
A similar center exists in the current police department, which is where City Council currently meets.
“Having this community hall is going to be pretty significant,” Kelly said. “The current hall is underutilized mainly because it’s not ADA compliant, and the building is dilapidated.”
He said the city would be able to partner with community organizations and offer more in the space once it’s complete.
A final design hasn’t yet been completed.
Harvard Police Chief Mark Krause said the department is “cautiously optimistic” about the future.
“This is one topic that has come up in different stages over the past 20 years,” he said. “I think when the day comes and we start to dig, it will all hit home. ... We are very much looking forward to it.”
The Harvard Police Department is made up of the chief, 17 full-time officers, one part-time officer and two civilian staffers, Krause said.