By Jeanie Hankins
Wickenburg Town Council is taking another look at the possibility of moving the police department out of Town Hall. During the regularly scheduled council meeting on Monday evening, WPD Chief Les Brown revisited the need for the a larger facility. WPD occupies about 3,500 sq. ft. of town hall, and at least 5,000 sq. ft is needed, he said.
The discussion began approximately four years ago, and has been considered by Council as recently as June 2018 when the idea was shelved amidst a contentious election season. In June 2018 Brown reported the findings of a two-year study by an advisory committee which recommended new construction of a 20,000 sq. ft. building to house WPD, Wickenburg fire administration offices and possibly some personnel working in the area with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Bureau of Land Management fire response teams. Estimated cost of the facility was $12 million. To pay for it, the committee recommended the town ask voters to approve a bond which would be paid back with a small increase in sales tax, rather than property tax. That way, visitors to Wickenburg and travelers would also share in the cost of services from which they benefit.
On Monday night, Brown presented two options. The first included the purchase of vacant land and new construction of a building between 10,000-15,000 sq. ft., at a total estimated cost of $8-12 million. He did not present suggestions on how the building would be funded, and the possibility of housing other agencies was not mentioned.
The second proposal is to purchase an existing building and remodel it for use as the police department. One possibility is the former bank building on the northeast corner of W. Wickenburg Way and Vulture Mine. The 5,140 sq. ft. building is on three developable acres and is listed at $1.6 million, according to Brown’s presentation materials. Initial improvements would cost around $200,000. The WPD would move to the building in stages, with the bulk of the staff being moved as soon as possible. Dispatch would follow at a later date, due to considerations with radio antennas, and associated costs happening in a future budget year. Also, some remodeling to form the holding cells and sally port would likely be put off for a year or so as well, Brown said.
Council adjourned into executive session to discuss the possibilities. No decision was announced publicly following the session.
Mayor Rui Pereira told The Sun on Tuesday morning that the possibility of relocating the WPD is definitely being pursued, and Town staff has been directed to “come back in the near future with what they’ve been able to negotiate.”
“Both are attractive spots,” he said. While the Mayor believes the bank location is a prime spot for a commercial venture, it would also present a lot of possibilities for growth of municipal facilities in years to come, he said. “That location could easily become the center of Wickenburg’s town government.
Pereira also said the Town would not be looking at financing a purchase, nor would it require a tax increase. “There are funds available now,” he said.