City eyes former school land as site for new police station|Wants school board to declare 4.34 acres as surplus property

Published 11:18 am Saturday, August 8, 2009

Contributing Editor

Washington could be a step closer to building a new police station after the City Council meets Monday.
The council is expected to authorize the mayor to sign a letter that asks the Beaufort County Board of Education to declare about 4.34 acres on the north portion of the former John Small Elementary School property between Pierce and Bridge street as surplus property. Such a designation would allow the city to acquire the land as a site for the new police station.
In 2008, the council established construction of a new police station as its No. 1 capital-investment priority. Subsequently, the city began searching for possible sites for the new facility and hired Architects Design Group to design the new police station. The Washington Police Department identified two sites for the new station, the site on the former school property and a site at the northeast corner of East Fifth and Bonner streets.
The proposed site on the former school property is preferred because it is not in the 100-year flood zone, which is the case with the other proposed site. The preferred site is level and provides easy access to U.S. Highways 17 and 264, 15th Street and downtown, according to city officials.
“The neighborhood would greatly benefit from the increased security which the police station would provide and the new investment of an attractive public building,” reads a memorandum from City Manager James C. Smith to Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and the council. “It would also reinforce the recently completed Beebe (Memorial) Park.”
According to a letter from Jennette to Robert Belcher, chairman of the school board, a recent appraisal values the 4.34-acre site at $34,563 per acre, or a purchase price of $150,000.
As for the existing police station at the corner of Respess and West Third streets, the city is requesting hazard-mitigation funds from the N.C. Emergency Management Agency to demolish the station.
“If NCEM monies are used to demolish the current police facility, the land must be categorized as open space in perpetuity,” reads a memorandum from police Chief Mick Reed to the mayor and council. “NCEM will cover demolition and acquisition costs (appraised value of land).
The property has a B2 (general business) zoning classification. The city’s land-use plan identifies the land’s future zoning classification as mixed-use, which allows for compact commercial, recreational and residential uses to mix.
Demolishing the structure and returning the land to open space would result in future development opportunities being lost, with an estimated loss of $530,000 in income in the near term, the memorandum notes.
Options other than demolishing the building include relocating a city, county or state government agency, or a nonprofit organization, there and not applying for NCEM funds and selling the property at a later date.
The council’s agenda includes, but is not limited to, a Rails to Trails presentation, discussion about amending the sewer contract between the city and Town of Chocowinity and discussion about awarding a contract to ELJ Inc. to provide self-serve fueling at Warren Field Airport.
The council meets at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 102 E. Second St.