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Town Council Approves Police Station

The one-story, white building on Sterling Road has served its purpose for the Town of Herndon, but it is now time to move on.

Tuesday night, the Town Council unanimously approved the purchase agreement for 397 Herndon Parkway, which will be converted into the town's new police station.

"We've been working on a suitable place for some time," said Chief Toussaint Summers Jr. after the vote. "Everyone really recognizes the need. We don't function as good as we could because of the lack of space."

The new building will provide 60,000 square feet of space, which will most likely be split with slightly more than half dedicated to the police and the remainder rented out — possibly to another government agency — until it's needed for town purposes.

Pending no serious setbacks, settlement is slated for Feb. 9 and the police could begin moving into their new facility by the fall of 2004.

"I'm happy to vote for this one," said Mayor Rick Thoesen.

THE CURRENT STATION, located at 1481 Sterling Road, is more than 50 years old, and once served as a school house, said Thoesen at a November press conference. The police moved in the mid-1980s and at the time, the department consisted of about 30 or so officers. Over time, as the town grew, the department grew and so did the need for more space. Presently, the police department employs 54 sworn officers and 14 civilian personnel.

"When a citizen comes in, there is no place to talk to them. You have to talk in the hallway where there is no privacy," Summers said. "We're using an old cell, one with the bars like you see on TV, as a property room. The ceiling leaks in the basement where we have our fitness room."

Town officials had been working on a plan to expand the current location to 32,000 square feet over two phases. Because a portion of the property is located in Loudoun County, the project was subject to Loudoun's zoning laws, as well as Herndon's own code. Overall, the dual zoning was delaying the permitting process.

In addition, the town's vacancy rate was increasing, making existing properties attractive to town officials.

The new site will cost the town $7.1 million to buy — with an additional $1.5 million to $2.4 million in needed renovations. The estimated cost of expanding the existing site was $8 million to $9 million.

"WE REALLY NEED A PLACE, but I wanted to make really sure we got something nice for the community that doesn't break the community," Summers said.

The funding for the new station is coming from bonds and the shifting of projects in the town's capital improvement program. At its Nov. 25 meeting, the Town Council voted to approve an $8.5 million bond issue, which was originally going to pay for a portion of the redevelopment of the existing police station site and the final phase of the Community Center expansion, which will delayed a year because of the purchase of the new police site. The additional needed funds are coming from the $950,000 that were to be used to purchase land on Alabama Drive for a new Neighborhood Resource Center and $50,000 from the undesignated fund balance.

Mary Tuohy, the town's director of finance, estimates the additional space in the new building could be rented at a rate of $12 per square foot.

"That's $336,000 of potential revenue per year," Tuohy told the town's Planning Commission in November. "That pays for about half of the debt service for the bond."

Because of the added security of police as neighbors, Tuohy said potential tenants include the federal government, and the county has also been contacted about possibly renting the space.