City closes on police station property

Published 6:42 pm Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Washington Police Department is one step closer to having a permanent home. The City of Washington recently closed on two pieces of property in the heart of town that were once home to a Dr Pepper bottling plant. The closing price was $800,000.

The purchase comes nearly a year after flooding from Hurricane Florence forced the WPD to leave behind its former station on West Third Street. In the time since, the department has been headquartered at a building on John Small Avenue, with the telecommunications operators working from Washington Fire Station No. 2 on West 15th Street. Recently, the telecommunications operations were relocated to the site on John Small Avenue, once again placing the department’s operations under one roof.

“I think the prospect of a new police station has been on the radar of elected officials for a number of years,” City Manager Jonathan Russell said. “The previous structure was dealing with adequate space issues and that was accelerated by the flooding that took place.”

As far as funding for the new station, the city has been planning and saving for the project for a number of years, including implementing a 2-cent tax increase in the 2016-17 budget specifically for the project. Currently, Russell says the city has a capital project fund of $1.6 million set aside for the new station and has identified other potential funding sources from the USDA, the Golden LEAF Foundation and FEMA.

As of this month, the city has issued a request for proposals for engineering and design services on the new station. Russell said seven companies have responded so far. Of those, the top three firms will be interviewed, with the city council likely to make a decision during its October meeting.

“It’s going to be a 24-30 month process from beginning to end with the amount of engineering and design that’s going to go into it,” Russell said. “We also want to solicit public comment and review to make sure it’s agreeable with as many people as possible. It’s going to answer an immediate need, but we’re going to be using this facility for years to come in the future.”

Upon completion, the building will stand two stories tall, at approximately 15,000 square feet. Russell said the city hopes to engage with local residents during the design process, and that previous conceptual drawings for a new station will be available during the process.

The seller of the properties is a limited liability company called Washington Center, LLC. Established in 2005, the company’s offices are listed in Sausalito, California, and the registered agents are William J. Ziegler of Sausalito and Jack Ulrichs of Washington.

According to tax records, the listed values for the two properties are $400,595 and $42,140, for a combined tax value of $442,675. Records show that Washington Center, LLC purchased both parcels in 2005, the larger from Terry Smithwick for $625,000, and the smaller from Stan Deatherage for $125,000.

Washington Police and Fire Services Director Stacy Drakeford says the closing is welcome news for the officers and staff in his department.

“Especially for the men and women who have been here for more than 10 years,” Drakeford said. “They finally see that this building is coming to fruition.”