Council studying sites for station

Published 11:56 am Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Contributing Editor

Washington’s City Council plans to discuss a report concerning 18 possible sites for a new police station at its Jan. 25 meeting.
At its Dec. 14 meeting, council members said they wanted time to review the report thoroughly before beginning discourse on the issue. They received copies of the report just a few days before that meeting, not enough time to study it and be prepared to discuss the possible sites.
At its August meeting, the council balked at using the former P.S. Jones High School site off Bridge Street for a new police station in Washington when a group of residents who live in or near that area opposed locating a new police station there. After William O’Pharrow, a spokesman for a segment of the city’s black community, presented 423 signatures on petitions opposing the proposal to build the new facility near the intersection of Bridge and West 11th streets, the council decided to look elsewhere for a location for the new police station.
At that meeting, Archie Jennings, then a councilman but now the mayor, expressed concern about the city moving too quickly when it comes to finding a site on which to build a new police station.
Jennings, in an interview Tuesday, said the report was commissioned in the wake of the rejection of the former P.S. Jones site “to make sure we took in every possible site.”
Jennings also said the city remains committed to working with Beaufort County when it comes to the city and county possibly building a joint facility that would house the new police station and other local government agencies, functions and services. Talks about such a joint facility have ebbed and flowed in recent years.
Jennings said the report identifies “sizable sites that could host something like that.”
The mayor said the report provides the council a good inventory of possible sites from which to begin its search for the best location for a new police station. The council’s job is to study those possible sites and find the one that best meets the city’s needs, he said.
“By ruling things out, we’ll begin to narrow down what we are looking for,” Jennings said.
At the August meeting, Councilman Gil Davis said he believes there was an effort to “shoehorn” the new police station into one site, the P.S. Jones site. He also expressed concern that site may contain graves, which could hinder any plans to build a facility there.
Davis said then the city should wait on Architects Design Group to draw up the building plans for the new police station, then decide on a site for the new facility.
At that same meeting, Councilman Doug Mercer said ADG, asked by the city to consider the P.S. Jones site and a site at the northeast corner of East Fifth and Bonner streets and recommend one of those sites, should have been given the latitude to evaluate other possible sites. He also questioned the need for a 20,000-square-foot new police station.
Those concerns resulted in the latest report on possible sites for the new police station.
The possible sites identified by the report include the following:
• Former Dr Pepper plant, Bridge and West Third streets.
• Existing baseball fields, West Third Street.
• Faith and Truth Ministries site, West Third Street.
• Old water-treatment plant site, Plymouth Street.
• Former Dixie Bearing Co. site, West Fourth and Plymouth streets.
• Former Moore’s Honda site, West Fifth Street.
• Little Washington Park LLC site, Pierce and West 15th streets.
• Sam Mann heirs property, Bridge and West 13th streets.
• Herbert Perry Sr. property, John Small Avenue and Hodges Street.
• Former John Small School site, North Harvey and West Fifth streets.
• Part of Bobby Andrews Recreation Center area, North Bonner and West Fifth streets.
• Former shirt factory, West Fifth and Brown streets.
• Former W.B. Gerard warehouse, Grimes Road.
• Former Moore’s Ford/warehouse, West Fifth and Bridge streets.
• Former Washington High School site, East Ninth and East Seventh streets.
• Former McLellan building, West Main Street.
• Beaufort County Developmental Center property, West Fifth Street.
• Existing police station, West Third Street.
The report includes maps, photographs and aerial photographs of possible sites. The report includes information about each site. That information includes such data as tax values of the land and/or building, sizes (square footage and/or acreage) of each site’s building and/or land, zoning classification, utilities and whether it’s in the flood plain.