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Hyattsville moves forward with police relocation plans

Hyattsville MD PoliceHYATTVILLE – It was seven years in the making, but the city of Hyattsville has finally made a decision on the future home of their police department, though the options before it were not ideal.

The city of Hyattsville is about to make a more than $10 million investment into the building at 3505 Hamilton Street after voting unanimously to move the police department there during their May 1 meeting.

The vote came after an April 26 discussion on the issue where City Administrator Tracey Nicholson and Assistant City Administrator Jim Chandler recommended the city move forward with the renovation of the old BB&T building on Hamilton Street.

“In six years I think this probably is the most consequential, aside from the budget, I think this is probably the highest value item that we’ve seen on the dais,” Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said.

The city staff briefed the council on the options ahead of them during a meeting in February where Chandler laid out a decision tree for the council members that essentially depended on the city choosing where to put its police department.

He said that due to budget constraints, the facilities plan for both the police and the city building would likely need to be done in two phases: first make a decision on the police department and act on it and then, with additional time, reevaluate the options for the municipal building renovation or relocation.

City staff anticipates having a briefing on city building options by late fall.

Currently, the Hyattsville City Police are housed in the city’s municipal building on the second floor, but city staff and Police Chief Douglas Holland have often commented that the space does not serve the purpose of a police station well.

In looking at options, Nicholson said the city could renovate the city building, move to a vacant county building that would need to be renovated at a cost to the city and then rented, or move the department to 3505 Hamilton Street, which was purchased in 2010 and is in need of repair.

Repairs for the building on Hamilton Street are estimated at more than $10 million, which is a much larger sum than the council expected. Renovations to the county building are estimated at $15 million, but would include space to move the municipal government seat as well – that price does not include the monthly rent, however.

“I think we all needed a moment to breathe after we saw the cost estimate,” Nicholson said.

While the council did vote unanimously to move forward with the renovation, it did not come without hesitations, as the price tag on the renovation is rather larger.

Councilwoman Shani Warner pondered if there were any more options the city could look at and if perhaps some of the possible options for the city building, including some possible joint venture opportunities with the University Town Center (UTC) could also be explored for the police department.

Chandler said the UTC would not be a viable option for the police.

“We’ve taken the time to really think about where else we could put the police department in light of costs that are significantly more than we initially predicted. I don’t see a viable option,” Warner said.

Warner said she doesn’t love the idea but sees it as the “least bad option.”

Councilman Thomas Wright also wanted to be sure this move is what the Hyattsville police want and that the building will serve their needs.

Holland said the building would likely be sufficient for close to 20 years, accounting for growth of services.

In addition, the fraternal order of police spoke during public comment at the May 1 meeting about what the move would mean to the officers.

“I cannot say enough how important this vote is for the healthy future of our police department and our city as a whole,” said Cpl. Zach Nemser. “I assure you this building is worth it.”

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