County explores alternatives for new 2nd District police station -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County staff are starting from scratch after the failure of a land swap four years in the making that would have resulted in a new 2nd District police station.

County Executive Isiah Leggett and the County Council are expected to review alternatives on what to do with the 2nd District station within the next few weeks, said Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

While Leggett will choose an alternative, the County Council must provide funding.

The JBG Companies pulled out of the deal earlier this month that would have given them the land where the current police station sits at 7359 Wisconsin Ave., valued at nearly $9 million, in exchange for JBG paying for the majority of the cost for the new station to be located on Cordell Avenue between Wisconsin and Montgomery avenues. The county would have contributed an additional $9.2 million for design, furniture and equipment for a new police station. It was scheduled to open in 2017, Hartman said.

JBG blamed the collapse of the deal on a slow economic recovery rate.

“The JBG Companies deeply regrets having to withdraw from the plan to participate in the development of a new Second District Police Station in Bethesda,” according to a statement from the developer. “The inability to reach the desired outcome is a byproduct of an economic recovery that has undershot even the most conservative of projections and further complicated an already complex transaction.”

Now county staff is reviewing alternatives, including pursuing another public/private partnership, renovating the existing site, or building a new station on another tract of county-owned land. The priorities are cost and getting the 2nd District into the new station rapidly, but no developer has indicated interest, Hartman said.

Although the county does own other sites in downtown Bethesda, he said they all have drawbacks. If a new station were built on a county parking lot, the county would have to reimburse the parking district for the value of the land.

“We desperately need to get the 2nd District out of the antiquated station in Bethesda,” Hartman said. “We have to keep in mind also the budget. It is a big chunk of money amidst a tight budget.”

The new three-story, 30,000-square-foot police station that was proposed by JBG was valued at approximately $22 million and was slated to be part of a larger, private commercial development that would have included multifamily apartment units and ground-floor retail between Woodmont and Bethesda avenues.

The current station is about 21,700 gross square feet and was built in 1961, according to the county website.

“The current facility is simply old and outdated and rundown,” said Capt. David Falcinelli, commander of the 2nd District.

He said the heating and air conditioning systems are constantly in need of repair, the station lacks a secure area to transfer prisoners from a police car to the station, and the phone system is out of date. During Hurricane Sandy, many ceiling tiles collapsed due to a leaky roof, he said.

The 2nd District also will expand as part of a redistricting plan that takes effect in January 2013.

The district currently includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington and North Bethesda. It will expand to include parts of Randolph Hills and Potomac, which currently are part of the 1st District, Falcinelli said. A detailed map is not yet available, but he said the current district boundary of Seven Locks Road will be pushed back to Falls Road. He said those areas were previously part of the 2nd District. The last major redistricting was in 2004.

The expansion will not affect response times, he said, explaining that officers primarily work out of their cars.

“Officers report to the station in the morning, and then they are pretty much in their cars for the rest of their day,” he said. “Their police car is in fact their office. The station is only a temporary place to take care of some administrative matters.”

After the expansion, the 2nd District will be divided into eight beats rather than the current seven, he said. Officers are already working the new beat to familiarize themselves with the area, he said.

jablamsky@gazette.net