When the public gathered in the community room of the Lawrence Community Center to discuss proposed financing via separate $700,000 bonds for the expansion of the current fire station and refurbishing the old Daly Creek Winery for a new police station, there was a lot they agreed on.
They agreed that both needed an upgrade.
The issues with the current police station, and former library, included: only 1,400 square feet on the main level, no garage for the squad cars or on-street parking for the public, insufficient electrical wiring, it was not Americans with Disabilities Act Compliant and there were flooding issues in the basement and leaky sections of the roof.
There were also security and privacy concerns, particularly with the main room that served as not only a break room, but the server room, desk space and interview room.
The fire department also needed more space, and the city is eyeing a 7,440 square foot expansion. The current space leaves the department cramped, with equipment, like the trailer and side-by-side, not being stored efficiently. There’s also a lack of room for training and to put on equipment that the expansion would address. The department would also be looking to do some routine maintenance to address some mold issues in the building.
There didn’t even seem to be much issue with the plan for the fire department’s expansion.
The public just wanted to make sure that in the case of the police station, that all options were being considered and that the option in front of them was the correct one.
City Administrator Jacob Sheridan ran through 10 options the city considered, including the proposal with the winery. A major con with many of the site that had been discussed was they were not for sale when inquired about.
A popular option with the public was to build east of the library, but Sheridan said most of that property was in the floodplain. Remodeling, instead of building a whole new building, would save the average taxpayer, based on the average residential assessment in town, just under $140 in property tax hikes.
In addition, it would have a lower environmental impact as well.
Some questioned why a combined station for the police and fire departments wouldn’t be the better option. When asked prior to the small group breakout, why the city hadn’t considered building something adjacent to the fire station toward Shaw Road, Sheridan said there were a couple of reasons. First, was concern over the lack of space and the second was the impact Wapsipinicon Trail project.
Multiple discussion groups expressed concern over the future maintenance of the buildings, noting that the current buildings had not been taken particularly good care of, and the public wondered what would happen to the old police station, which is on the historic registry.
Addressing the latter point, Sheridan said they would likely have to put some money into the building for maintenance, but were focusing on getting the police department moved before turning to what would be done with the old library.
“We’re open to ideas if someone has them,” Sheridan said of the current police station.
The town hall was scheduled after a petition was submitted during the city’s Sept. 23 public hearing, requiring the city to put the matter to a vote in order to pass the bonds. Sheridan said city officials would review the feedback gotten from the public and that if the matter was put to a vote, it would likely come in the spring.