BY HEATHER SARVER MILLAN — The city council unanimously authorized one of the biggest, most expensive items in recent years at their meeting May 1. And it’s been six years in the making.
The council authorized city staff to continue with the renovation of 3505 Hamilton Street, a city-owned property, as the new home of the Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD). This project is currently estimated at $10 million.
“In six years, this is probably the most consequential … highest-value item that we’ve seen,” said Mayor Candace Hollingsworth.
During public comment at the meeting, Hyattsville Fraternal Order of Police President Zach Nemser spoke about the importance of the move. “I cannot say enough how important this vote is for the healthy future of our police department and our city as a whole,” he said. “We are fully aware of the financial impact that this will have on the city, but I assure you this building is worth it.”
The police department is currently located on the second floor of the city municipal building. But space is tight, and the location is not ideal for officer response. The city has long looked at moving the police department to the former BB&T building. The municipal building is also in need of several repairs.
There were several police officers in the room at the May 1 council meeting to hear the council vote. Nemser said he believed the design of the new police department will help the police recruit high-quality staff to fill their depleted ranks, retain current high-quality officers and help boost morale. Nemser added that officers gave input on the design.
The architectural and engineering consultant firm of Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson (JMT) has worked with the Department of Public Works and police department staff to identify their current and future needs, evaluate the condition of 3505 Hamilton Street, and evaluate the condition of the current city municipal building and other possible locations. The police department project was initially estimated to cost $4.8 million for renovations, but that estimate did not include the cost of turning a building that was used for offices and banking into a specialized police station.
“One of the things I’ve been pleased with is that we have had additional in-house expertise … [and] JMT consulting has helped us have fidelity in the numbers,” Hollingsworth said. “We’ve been making decisions on good information.”
At the April 26 council meeting, City Administrator Tracey Nicholson presented the city’s recommendations to the council. HCPD and the city administrative staff are in need of new space that can accommodate them better than the current municipal building.
Nicholson said that staff, in consultation with JMT, searched for better options for the HCPD but concluded that 3505 Hamilton Street was the best option. However, the downside is that the city administration staff cannot also be moved there. The current solution is to divide the project into two phases. Phase one: Relocate HCPD to 3505 Hamilton Street. Phase two: Continue to evaluate potential city administration building options.
Although the council voted unanimously to approve this project moving forward, there were some hesitations. Councilmember Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) raised his concern that another better, more cost-effective option of co-locating the offices would be discovered later.
“I believe we have exhausted all the options for co-location,” Nicholson said, adding that she and the staff would have preferred co-location.
Many councilmembers said they thought this was the best option available, despite the cost.