Last Friday, officials representing the Town of Herndon entered into a purchase agreement with the owner of 397 Herndon Parkway, with the plan to convert it into a new police station.
The proposal requires juggling the capital improvements plan, including delaying the final phase of construction on the Community Center for a year and the postponement of the purchase and development of lots on Alabama Street for a new Neighborhood Resource Center indefinitely, in order to free up money for the purchase of the building and its interior renovation.
The town has until Dec. 23 to confirm the sale, if for some reason, officials choose not to purchase the building, the required deposit will be returned.
Stephen Owen, the town manager, said: "397 Herndon Parkway is a larger building than we had envisioned for the police station. … In the long term, we anticipate we would have a need for all the space."
The town plans to have two public hearings, one at the Planning Commission level and one at the Town Council level, even though neither is required, before finalizing the purchase agreement.
ORIGINALLY, the town had planned a two-phase improvement process of the existing police station at 1481 Sterling Road that would have resulted in a 32,000-square-foot facility. Problems arose with the fact that half of the property actually lies in Loudoun County, making the project subject to Loundoun's zoning regulations. Owen said that while Loudoun County was being fair, the process was taking too long and therefore costing too much money.
With a change of leadership in the mayor's office, town manager's office and the Department of Public Works all since July 2002; and the change in the economics of the town, which created several vacancies at existing commercial buildings, town officials decided to look at alternative sites for the police station.
"We looked at nine different properties," Owen said. "Some had conflicts with the neighboring properties. Some were multi-story and for example, only the third and fourth floor were available."
Eventually, everyone involved settled on 397 Herndon Parkway, a 60,000-square-foot, one-story brick building adjacent to Sugarland Run Park and bordering the W & OD Trail. The access to the parkway and the trail, for the bike patrol, make the site attractive, said Owen.
Should the town exercise the sales contract, the estimated cost is $7.1 million for the purchase of the building and additional $1.5 million to $2.4 million for the renovation of the property to make it useful to the police.
The two-phase renovation of the existing site was expected to cost between $8 million to $9 million.
THE MONEY IS EXPECTED to be made available by postponing projects on the CIP, including pushing the final phase of renovation and construction of the Community Center back at least a year and indefinitely putting the new Neighborhood Resource Center on hold.
"The first work session in November, we will be assessing the police station and moving some projects to the out years in the CIP. … We'll be looking at all of them the Community Center, the Arts Center, the NRC," said Carl Sivertsen, chairman of the Planning Commission. "I just hope the public reads the materials and comes to the Dec. 1 public hearing."
Mary Tuohy, the town's director of finance, said at least as far as the Community Center is concerned, market indicators point to the town being able to go to issue bonds in 2005 or 2006 to help fund a portion of the center upgrades. In addition, she said a portion can come from the undesignated fund balance because the town had done better this fiscal year than anticipated.
Owen said it is also possible for the town to rent out the unused portion of the new police station until it is necessary to expand, which he said could be sooner than later.
"Down the road, we see the town growing. In the future there will be a transit station, so we're anticipating within 25 years, more density," Owen said. "We expect a lot of area around the Toll Road to redevelop."
IN THE MEANTIME, the existing police station will be utilized to relieve overcrowding in other offices at the pubic works department, Herndon Municipal Center and Town Hall once the police officers move to their new home, Owen said. He also suggested the space could be used by the Parks and Recreation Department until the Community Center can be completed.
As for the new police station, Robert Boxer, director of pubic works, said the building has already been inspected and appraised, and an environmental study is underway. If the purchase deal goes through, he said the interior will have to be reconfigured, currently the building is set up for three different tenants. He also said a sallyport for loading and unloading prisoners, K-9 kennels and a security barrier need to be installed. In addition, the existing garage entrance needs to be altered. He said the earliest the town could go out to bid on the project is this winter, with construction taking place the following spring. He said it's possible the police station could be open and running by fall 2004.
Currently, the police, who moved to their current location in the mid 1980s with 30 or so officers, use trailers and off-site rented properties because the station is not large enough for the 54 sworn officers plus 14 civilian personnel.
"We are very pleased," said Chief Toussaint Summers. "We are cramped here. We have some functions, such as the [Criminal Investigations Section] and motor unit elsewhere around town. It would be nice if we could be together."