STRASBURG — During a public hearing at the Nov. 30 Town Council meeting, the council plans to consider whether to buy and renovate the former BB&T bank building on King Street in order to safely house the growing police department.
The meeting is set to start at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 174 E. King St.
“This possibility has presented itself, and we’re continuing to look at that and talk to citizens and the police department,” Council Member Taralyn Nicholson said on Friday. “Hopefully, we’ll come to a good solution without burdening the taxpayers. I know (members of the police department) need a new place and have for some time. We want to do right for the taxpayers and the police department.”
While it uses some first- and second-floor space at Town Hall, the department mostly operates out of the building’s basement.
“Many citizens do not realize that those who protect our community are in the basement of Town Hall,” Council Member Christie Monahan said on her council member Facebook page on Sunday. Police department employees “have dealt with black mold, sewer line breaks and a flooding elevator that emits odors. The basement has no windows to provide adequate fresh air for all these issues.”
Because of that inadequate working environment, as well as the need for more space, “I think it’s important for the officers and their morale to continue to work toward completing this (potential relocation) project,” Strasburg Police Chief Wayne Sager said by phone on Monday.
Sager, who was appointed chief in January 2018 and has worked with the department since 2006, said the department currently has 18 full-time officers, two full-time service staff employees and four part-time employees who serve a population of a little more than 7,000 residents.
“The town is growing, and the demand on law enforcement has grown over the years,” the chief said. For example, “We have a need for more evidence storage. There are a total of six departments working in Town Hall.”
Sager said mitigation efforts to address the mold problem “hopefully have fixed that issue. But the elevator shaft still fills up with water and emits an odor, and there are no windows” in the basement.
The former BB&T bank building is at 115 W. King St., on the southwest corner of King and Holiday streets.
Monahan said the town cannot afford the cost of building a new police facility.
“The opportunity to purchase a building that was already built to be secure will be a cost savings to the town,” she said on her Facebook post. “Being located centrally downtown, which is the preference for our officers, and citizens having better access to our police department are all positives.”
Nicholson said she is waiting to receive purchase and renovation estimates, funding methods and other details about the possible relocation from Town Manager Waverly Coggsdale.
The council “is supposed to have that information by the 30th,” she said.
Coggsdale could not be reached for comment.
Sager also said he has not yet received any cost estimates. He said American Rescue Plan funds might be a potential source of funding for at least a part of the overall pending relocation project.
“That’s a council decision,” he said, adding that the council has directed staff to perform an initial assessment of the former bank building. “It’s definitely going to need renovations but, being a bank, it has some secured areas: its vaults could be used for evidence storage.”
Besides possibly providing better quarters for the police department, the building has a drive-thru where customers could pay their water bills, Nicholson said.
“But we have to figure that all out,” as well as what would happen to the existing overall police department space if the relocation occurs, she said.