Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Bill Sargent will develop a plan for a detached police station as part of the ongoing study of a new City Hall complex.
The commissioners imposed a 30-day deadline on Sargent to come up with a plan, working with architect Mike Wigley of Davis, Bowen and Friedel and engineers EDiS.
Sargent has been the most vocal opponent to the plan for a new City Hall campus drawn up with the approval of the City Hall Master Plan Task Force, chaired by Mayor Sam Cooper. The task force’s multiphase plan would begin with new police facility, to be built on the green space in front of the current Rehoboth Avenue City Hall entrance.
The current City Hall would be demolished; city offices would be relocated to temporary facilities while a new building is built.
In a presentation to his fellow commissioners, Sargent said he had serious problems with the design and execution of the plan.
He said the front vestibule in the design leading to the convention center is too long; the second floor is too isolated; and the facility itself lacks open space. Sargent also said the police command center, to be located on the northwest corner of the building with an attached sally port, was vulnerable to a possible terrorist attack.
“Sitting in the corner, it’s asking for trouble,” he said.
Sargent said the building was awkward and not terribly attractive, and that the multiphased planning for construction would not be as simple as presented.
He asked for a separate police building and a more compact lobby that would be more attractive and welcoming to visitors. By building first in front of the old City Hall before demolishing it, Sargent said the city was inviting problems with access and possible cost overruns.
Under Sargent’s proposal, the new police building would be located in the east parking lot where the parking department and Main Street offices are now located, adjacent to City Hall. He proposed to move Main Street and the parking department to 306 Rehoboth Ave, currently the location of the building and licensing department.
Wilmington-based Tevebaugh Associates proposed a similar plan in 2008. Sargent said his plan differs in that the building would not take up as much of the east parking lot, limiting the design to the footprint of the Main Street and parking department buildings.
Wigley said he had looked at a detached police building in the west parking lot, but decided it was not feasible if square footage requirements, fire truck access and ingress and egress are considered.
Sargent literally begged the commissioners to let him work with Wigley on a detached police facility. He said his proposal will provide more open space and will ultimately be less costly than EDiS’ $15 million proposal.
“I have to speak out. I may be a minority of one. Why would we not look at this alternative? At best, we may come out with a much better City Hall complex,” Sargent said.
Mayor supports one building for all departments
That stance clashes with Cooper and City Manager Greg Ferrese, who have stated their desire to have all the major city departments under the same roof.
“I think the closer you can keep those people to you, the more control you have and the better control you have. And I think to start dispersing these departments throughout the city is a disservice to the organization of this town,” Cooper said.
Sargent said the city already has a natural dispersion of departments, with the water and public works departments in different areas of town.
While some of the commissioners expressed doubts about Sargent’s idea, others expressed support for aspects of his plan. Commissioners Patrick Gossett and Pat Coluzzi said a separate police station does not fit with the guiding principle of the project, which is to have all the functions of the city in one area.
Commissioner Stan Mills said a detached police building would help in phasing the protect to keep the police department running smoothly through construction. However, he also said he liked having the police and city administration in one building.
“It does give you more flexibility,” Cooper said. “But how are you going to use that flexibility? You kind of have to have an idea of how the building is laid out.”
Commissioner Lorraine Zellers said the commissioners should explore Sargent’s idea and see if it works. She said she would also like to see more open space in the plans, something Wigley said could be accommodated.
Plans for 306 Rehoboth Ave.
The commissioners are also still working out what to do with the city-owned, four-year old, $1 million 306 Rehoboth Ave. property. Cooper said he did not believe the building, which houses the building and licensing and information technology departments, was the most effective use of the land. Cooper said he was open to leasing or selling the property.
Mills floated the idea of moving the parking and tech services department into the building, an idea Cooper was amenable to because the two departments work closely together. The commissioners also discussed moving Main Street and the parking department into the building.
While EDiS has estimated the city could get $2 million for the property, no appraisal has been done to determine its value. In the end, the commissioners agreed to conduct a market analysis of the building to get a better idea of what it is worth.