The village of Cary is moving forward with plans to build a new Village Hall and police department, as village officials say the current facility doesn’t meet their needs.
Both Cary Mayor Mark Kownick and Police Chief Patrick Finlon said the village hall and police department building, at 655 Village Hall Drive, was not “purpose-built,” causing various inefficiencies for staff and residents.
FGM Architects, the firm the village hired to do an evaluation of the current police station and Village Hall, detailed much of these issues in a space/needs analysis.
“The police department is short of space compared to what is required for its operations. Many of the existing spaces were not designed well, or are now inadequate, causing them to be functionally unproductive,” FGM Architects wrote. “At this time, the building is dictating the way many police functions are performed instead of enhancing their operations.”
When it comes to the Village Hall side of the building, FGM said that while the newer areas of the building have been maintained, the spaces are no longer arranged in a way to support current operations.
“Additionally, due to age, poor condition and ongoing deterioration, portions of the original facility such as the Great Room are no longer habitable and do not serve their intended purpose,” the architects wrote in the analysis. “This renders a significant amount of area within the building to be underutilized.”
At a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month, board members gave their consensus to support the recommendation by FGM to build a new facility, so village staff will start negotiations with the firm on a contract and plans for it.
The village plans on starting construction next fall and potentially moving into the new Village Hall and police department in 2021, Kownick said. Right now, the village and the architectural firm plan for the new building to be at the intersection of Georgetown Drive and Industrial Drive.
Village employees and police officers still would work in the old building while the new one is being built.
One example of the inefficiencies in the police department is how the only way to get from one side of the police department to the other is to go through the detention area, they said. By administrative rule, officers cannot have firearms in this area, so if someone is in the detention area, they have to go outside and walk around the building to get to the other side.
Another issue is that the building is right next to the Community Center Pool. When the pool is being used, there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic crossing Briargate road, so it’s hard for officers to get out and go to a call.
“There’s a lot of conflicting pedestrian traffic, especially in the summer months; that’s a safety concern for us as well,” Finlon said.
Sometimes, Kownick said, when residents come to the building, they will enter into the Village Hall side thinking they can get to the police department through there, only to be sent around to the back of the building so they can access the correct department.
In FGM Architects’ concept plan for the new building, Kownick said, this problem would be solved, as people could walk through the front door of the building and have three choices on where to go – the village’s finance, administration and development office would be on one side, with a secured entrance to get to the police department on the other side. In the middle would be the entrance to the Village Board room.
In addition, the new Village Board room will be larger and able to seat more people. While the current Village Board room in the old facility technically can hold 124 people, it doesn’t really have seating for that many, Kownick said.
In FGM Architects’ concept plan for the police department, there’s a bigger property storage area and a dedicated space to release property.
In the current facility, property is released in the police department’s lobby.
“We really have a myriad of things, and some of them are firearms, so it would be nice to be able to have a place where you can release the firearms to somebody and not have them in the lobby with somebody who’s making a report for a damaged mailbox,” Finlon said.
Then there’s the police department locker rooms, which Finlon says are built more like school lockers and less like the ones that are conducive to storing equipment police officers use. In a new facility, the plan would be to give them larger locker rooms, with power outlets for officers to charge their radios and a compartment where they could store their firearm.
One example of this underutilized space is how the village administrator’s office is next to the mayor’s and both are far from the front of the building and administration desk. In a new facility, the Village Hall would have less space and be without the huge hallways currently in it, Kownick said, so people are closer to those they work with, making things a lot more efficient.
The building that the Village Hall is in now probably has more than $100,000 worth of repairs that need to be done, including roof repairs, a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, a new boiler and other maintenance things, Kownick said.
As it stands now, the current police station is 7,673 square feet, and the Village Hall is 12,812 square feet, making the building 20,485 square feet in total, according to FGM’s analysis.
“We have the most personnel. We have 29 people, but we have the smallest area,” Finlon said.
FGM Architects recommended a new facility only be slightly bigger, at 21,232 square feet, but in this building, the police station side would have more square footage (11,303 square feet) compared with the Village Hall, which would have 8,329 square feet. With 1,600 square feet in shared space between the two buildings, that makes for a total of 21,232 square feet.
The village says building a whole new facility would be a less expensive option than renovating the existing one, which was one option that was given to them by FGM Architects. The estimated cost of renovating and enhancing the existing facility would be between $11,783,223 and $12,825,399, while building a new one would be between $9,662,863 and $10,411,925.
The village has existing revenue that will be used to pay for the new facility, Kownick said, and there will be no tax increase used to pay for it.
He added that there are no plans to tear down the old building once it is vacated.
“We’d love for somebody else to use it,” Kownick said, adding that it could be used for a variety of things. “It’s got some really cool features to it; it’s just not set up for a police department and Village Hall.”