LOWER TOWNSHIP — A plan to construct a new police station next to Township Hall in Villas will be unveiled to the public Monday night.
The move, which has been discussed for years, would bring the police back to Villas after being based for almost 20 years at the Cape May Airport in Erma.
Lower Township Municipal Court moved to the airport with the police years ago, and under the plan it would return to the township complex on Bayshore Road. Court would be held in the room where Township Council now meets.
Township Manager Mike Voll will make a presentation on constructing a 12,600-square-foot police station, plus what Voll called a 1,700-square-foot sally port, at a cost of between $3.5 million and $3.8 million.
Voll said the public safety building at the airport has cost the township more than $4 million in renovations and repairs since the township leased it from Cape May County in 1995, and it remains “an environmentally sick building” due to mold and other issues.
“It’s just a mess. We have to stop flushing money down the toilet,” Voll said.
Police Chief William Mastriana is involved with the presentation. Afterward, Voll is hoping for a 5-0 vote from council to move forward. He said the township is retiring some debt and the project could be bonded with no impact on the tax rate. Voll said the bond ordinance could be introduced in May.
“The next step is to go out to bid and get a contractor. Construction could start in the fall and take 12 to 15 months,” Voll said.
The existing building dates to World War II, when the airport was a naval air station. Retrofitting it for police, courts, rescue squad and fire safety was not supposed to cost $4 million, but there were $2.4 million in cost overruns. Voll said the building requires $80,000 in maintenance per year and uses $100,000 for utilities. It also has roof issues, with the cost of repairs or replacement estimated at $800,000 to $1.8 million.
“There are 17 different HVAC systems on the roof. That’s wacky,” Voll said.
The building is leased from the county for just $1 a year. Voll said the township can easily walk away, or possibly use the best parts of the building for fire safety and the rescue squad.
Mayor Mike Beck has been adamant that police should be in the township complex and in Villas, which produces the most police calls. Voll said there is no public transportation to the airport and that can make it difficult for people to get to court.
In 2004, a consultant recommended vacating the building and constructing a new one in Villas for $2.5 million. A committee in 2012 also recommended the move.
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