New site emerges for town’s public safety complex

New site emerges for town’s public safety complex

The new 2.25-acre location for Cumberland’s public safety complex, across the street from the current police station on Diamond Hill Road, includes two houses and a garage that will be razed. (Breeze Photos by Tom Ward)

CUMBERLAND – In a surprise turnabout disclosed to The Valley Breeze this week, Mayor Bill Murray said he’s found a new location for the town’s public safety complex.

Instead of shoe-horning the new structure in next to the current station on North Garden Street, Murray is looking at property across the street, where two houses and a garage will be demolished to open up a 2.25-acre site listed as 1379-1391 Diamond Hill Road.

Discovery of the available parcel comes after months of searching, debate, and legal wrangling over finding the right place for the town’s center for public safety.

After all that, the landowner, who has not been individually identified, simply turned up at Town Hall one September day with a letter and a land survey, Murray said.

An investigation of the property, including an appraisal, followed with negotiations finally settling on a $650,000 price.

The owner is listed as Diamond Hill Road LLC, represented by real estate broker Ed Stachurski.

Town Council members learned of the opportunity during a closed-door session last week. Although no vote was taken, the move is expected to win approval at the Dec. 21 council meeting, Murray said.

A purchase and sales agreement contingent on the council’s agreement was signed this week.

If approved, the architectural firm, Kaestle Boos Associates, will have lost only about a month of work, Murray said, with a ground-breaking anticipated for June 2017.

Kaestle Boos had designed a two-story complex for North Garden Street, a structure that was warmly received around town, Murray said. “But I was always worried about space,” Murray said this week.

Two lots make up the acreage abutting the backyards of Seneca Street residents. Sitting one behind the other, each lot is about an acre, with the rear lot landlocked. The front lot has about 250 feet of frontage across from the former Joly’s Auto Body and a stone’s throw from the current police station.

The benefits of building the structure on the new parcel are many, says the mayor.

He says, in fact, that until this piece of land became available, the project was beginning to be impossible to pull off for the $12.5 million taxpayers approved.

Exceeding voters’ ceiling on this project were two options under consideration. Architects estimated a $13.2 million cost to keep police on site while construction commenced next door, and a $13.9 million cost if the station was demolished first and temporary use of the Joly’s Auto Body location was factored in.

Using the new site, the total cost to be bonded is estimated in the range of $11.7 million for the building alone; the $650,000 price for land will come from surplus funds identified in the soon-to-be-released 2016 audit.

Assuming council go-ahead next week, the change in site also means the following:

• There will be room for not only a Rescue Service office but also a garage to house Rescue 1, which is currently based in the Valley Falls fire station.

• The heavily used Garvin baseball field will remain where it is, with the mayor saying he’s hoping to make some upgrades there.

• Students at Garvin Memorial Elementary School won’t be disturbed by the sounds of construction right on their doorstep.

• Police personnel won’t have to abandon the station and make do with inadequate, temporary facilities – including bathrooms in a trailer – offered by the former Joly’s Auto Body structure across North Garden Street.

• There’s room to build the safety complex on a single level.

• The plan preserves the current police station building. Murray says several possibilities for the vacant structure are being considered.

• The station’s communications tower can remain where it is.

Securing the new site comes after a committee met for months in 2015 in search of land sitting on a main road near the center of town.

Mark Lindgren had headed up the site search committee that found itself reviewing every available lot the town owns before recommending the northeastern corner of the Monastery Grounds, a site fiercely opposed by a citizens’ group that threatened to block the move with a lawsuit based on a 2004 easement protecting the Monastery’s 500 acres from any development.

Faced with the possibility of a lengthy legal battle, Murray had settled on other site: land adjacent to the current police station.

Lindgren was put back to work as chairman of the building committee, and the new complex – pared down to fit the space – appeared to be moving forward.

Building committee meetings stopped in late August of this year without explanation, while the mayor’s office explored the new site option.

Chief of Staff George Stansfield says the new land option surfaced just as worries about costs were mounting.

Only weeks earlier, the decision had been made to tear down the current station while the new one was built, a move that required the police department to relocate to temporary quarters for more than a year.

Just that day, Stansfield had toured the nearby Joly’s facility to discover multiple budget-busting upgrades needed to make that facility work.

The alternative that walked through the door makes so much sense, the mayor is saying, that he’s likely to “walk away from the project” if the council doesn’t support it.

The new site has recently been connected to town water and sewer lines and passed an environmental inspection certified by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, according to Murray.
Tax Assessor Kenneth Mallette Jr. handled the negotiations that saw each side give a little to settle on the $650,000 purchase price.
The town’s combined current assessment on the two lots is $380,000. But a real estate consultant, Peter Scotti, appraised the two lots and called the $650,000 offer “a fair price” based on its “investment value.” 
Scotti noted in a report of the land’s value to the town, “The subject site will afford significantly more flexibility for the siting and use of the proposed new complex and will require minimal demolition. Proximity to the existing complex not only affords the town a convenient and known location, it also mitigates the potential for interruption to life safety services that could be experienced with redevelopment or renovation of the existing facility.” 
As a comparison, Scotti referenced the recent purchase of the former Fair outlet on Jones Street, where 4.3 acres was purchased for $1.27 million, or about $300,000 an acre, for use by the Blackstone Valley Prep high school. 
Murray said that on the potential safety complex site, the two houses, which sit on the front lot, are both rented with the understanding that the occupants will receive six months’ notice in advance of the town demolishing the structures. 
One was built in 1938 and is 1,300 square feet, and the other in 1970 with 840 square feet. There is also a garage. 
About the rescue service, Murray said a proposal will be coming later that addresses the current Ashton headquarters, the talked-about satellite garage across from the high school and the possibility of adding a third rescue in the North Cumberland area.

This is the northern side of the large lot on Diamond Hill Road across from the Cumberland Police Station and North Garden Street. It is the proposed site for a new Public Safety Complex.


Maybe in planning stage the can cut some of that corner out. Was always a bit tough getting out of their. Great news.

I just heard the Seneca Street Preservation Alliance has been formed.

Third Site And Counting. LOL