After 11 month investigation, Purcellville chief continues to move forward

Purcellville Police Chief Cynthia McAlister

In a virtual work session on Oct. 27, Purcellville Town Council voted unanimously to authorize Town Attorney Sally Hankins to renegotiate a five-year lease for the town’s police headquarters in its current location at the Lowers Risk Group Building on Hirst Road.

Council members discussed whether the Lowers building is the best place to remain temporarily while a decision is being made on building a future permanent headquarters.

The other option for a temporary space is a former medical building on Pickwick Drive.

Councilman Stanley Milan said he doesn’t see a reason to move.

“We are looking at moving from one inadequate building to another inadequate building to build out,“ he said.

Town Manager David Mekarski said safety improvements are needed in the current space, including remodeling an interrogation room, creating a safe lobby and ADA compliant bathroom facilities, among other needs.

“It can certainly carry us for the next five years, without the liability exposure we currently have. We will be as prudent as possible to minimize the cost. We will have to go out and bid and get the lowest and best bid,” Mekarski said.

The town is currently spending $9,700 a month to lease 4,300 square feet. This lease is set to expire in February 2021.

Police Chief Cynthia McAlister has outlined reasons why she feels it’s important for the police station to ultimately move from its current location, even with renovations. Some of those issues are unsecured parking, a lack of stand-off distance from the building, clear sitelines into the building, a small lobby, no public restrooms, an interrogation room without recording capabilities and shortage of workspace for the police officers.

McAlister said a report on the current facility described the conditions as “deplorable.”

“I look at what the officers do for our community ... and we can’t forget we are the safest town in Virginia. I think we need to look long and hard why now is the time to build a new facility,” she said.The town anticipates adding about 2,000 square feet to the current space in order to help alleviate some of the issues, and council has authorized spending up to $1.5 million for construction and lease payments for the next five years.

Town Council has not made a decision about where to locate the future police headquarters.

At a meeting Oct. 21, Josh Bennett with Moseley Architects presented four options: 36803 Allder School Road near Woodgrove High School; 36716 West Main St. across from Loudoun Golf and Country Club; on Hirst Road across the street from Purcellville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department; and near the Basham Simms Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The total hard cost construction estimate — should the council move forward within three years — is $6.4 million. If council decides to wait 10 years, the cost is estimated to increase to $8.4 million.

Councilman Tip Stinnette questioned the timing of building a new headquarters, adding that council needs to determine what to do about its current debt situation before adding more debt.

“The question of building a new police department is one of timing. Before we assume new debt we should have a plan for our current debt. The question becomes when before we determine the need,” said Stinnette.

Discussions will continue on the permanent facility in December.

Other agenda items at Tuesday’s meeting included voting to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the Aberdeen Nutrient Credits Carbon Sequestration project; discussion about becoming a Certified Local Government; Christmas and holiday events; a discussion on changing Stantec funding; and a water tower and cellular service update, which is expected to be completed by mid-December.

The council meeting was held virtually due to a positive COVID-19 test from Councilman Ted Greenly. As a result, Town Hall was closed for cleaning and disinfecting for several days.

Greenly said he is doing well and has “no symptoms.” Greenly completed a rapid COVID-19 test on Monday after his wife, Joy, tested positive last Friday. Their son has tested negative.

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