AGAWAM – Police may not get the brand-new building they are asking for, but the town will study remodeling a commercial property to at least get them out of their century-old converted schoolhouse.
City councilors voted 11-0 on March 7 to spend $28,800 on a consultant to examine whether the vacant Hub New England Insurance Services building, at 1070 Suffield St., Agawam, could be renovated into a police station.
Agawam’s current police station, at 681 Springfield St., Feeding Hills, was first built in 1907 and operated as the Faolin Peirce School for its first 80 years. It lacks such basic public safety amenities as evidence lockers, an exercise room, or sufficient electrical outlets to charge radios and other equipment.
“It’s a deplorable building they’re working in right now,” commented City Councilor Paul Cavallo. “A shame to the town of Agawam that that is where our police station is.”
Because of worldwide economic factors such as inflation and supply and labor shortages, the cost of construction has shot up recently, Mayor William Sapelli said. He said building a new police station for Agawam would probably cost $40 million at today’s rates.
“I didn’t think that was the right way to go, with taxpayer money, when we have other needs, as well,” Sapelli said. “When you take the cost we can get that property for, and renovate that into a police station we can be proud of that fits the needs of the men and women of our Police Department, I think the cost is very, very reasonable, and maybe one-fifth of the cost of building brand-new.”
The Hub building is listed for sale for $2.55 million. Town Solicitor Stephen Buoniconti said the town was able to negotiate the seller down to $2.15 million if the town is able to close on the sale by June 1.
Although the Hub building would require substantial and expensive renovations for municipal use, Sapelli said having a roof, four walls and basic heating, cooling and power infrastructure in place puts a big dent into the price.
“The most expensive parts [of new construction] are the utilities, the mechanicals, the boilers, the ventilators, the air conditioning units, the electrical panels, the roofing – those things are all there right now, and we think they’re in pretty good shape,” Sapelli said. “I think we could get into this and out of it for under $10 million, or less.”
Buoniconti added that the seller has agreed to leave the existing office furniture with the building. He said other public safety buildings recently built in Massachusetts have spent $1 million on furniture alone, and “a lot of that furniture is in very good shape.”
The Hub building also already has a workout room – one of the facilities that a new police station would need, and one that is lacking from the current station.
Before being owned by East Longmeadow-based Hub, the building was the headquarters of the Insurance Center of New England. It was originally built as the Oaks, a banquet hall. The property includes 5 acres of land.
Councilor Dino Mercadante said he supports finding a new home for the police, but wants town officials to recognize that renovating the Hub building could cost more than they expect. Municipal public safety facilities have to comply with stricter building codes, including resilience to earthquakes and flooding. Councilor Robert Rossi echoed that point.
“This building has to be functional, and it also has to be secure,” he said.
The $28,800 study …….