Shelburne eyes former fabric shop for police station

Basement space in Cowell Gymnasium, Shelburne Fire Station also being considered for department that has outgrown its current location in Memorial Hall

  • The building at 623 Mohawk Trail, which formerly housed “A Notion to Quilt” fabric shop and sewing machine sales, is being considered for a future Shelburne police station. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

SHELBURNE — While talks continue on whether to put a future police station in the Cowell gymnasium basement, the Selectboard unanimously agreed to pursue a purchase and sales agreement for the building at 623 Mohawk Trail, which formerly housed “A Notion to Quilt,” a fabric shop that also sold sewing machines.

Selectmen authorized Finance Committee member John Payne to negotiate a purchase and sales agreement. But before any agreement is signed, its terms must be approved by both the Selectboard and Finance Committee, with financing approval from a special town meeting vote.

According to a report given to the board by Payne, the cost to buy the former shop and remake it into a police station would be about $400,000, with another $50,000 to $100,000 worth of improvements to be made later on. The building is immediately available and is the low bid of the town’s Request for Proposals. The negotiated price is $330,000 for the 5,400-square-foot building. Immediate needed renovations would add about $70,000 to the cost.

The purchase would give the town 3,900 square feet of office space plus 1,500 square feet for a sally port, where arrested suspects could be safely and privately brought in for booking. If the Police Department occupies about 2,500 square feet of office space, Payne suggests the town could use the rest for town office space and community meeting rooms. The building is about a five-minute drive from town offices on Bridge Street.

The argument for putting the Police Department alternatively in the unused basement space in the Cowell Gymnasium is that the town already owns the building, and has invested money in renovations already. Also, the location keeps the department in Shelburne Falls and keeps the former shop building on town tax roles. However, mold remediation of that basement space remains a problem, and an independent building inspector told Payne the costs for renovations and a hillside excavation for a sally port could cost between $800,000 to $900,000.

“The Cowell basement has a long history of mold and dampness,” Payne wrote. “After extensive mold remediation a few years ago, the basement was deemed safe for human occupation, only for about six months to a year before the mold returned. Experts recommended the installation of a large, air-handling system which would run down the center of the basement ceiling, removing moist air and returning (dry) air. The system was estimated to cost several hundred thousand dollars.”

Another option under consideration is whether there is space for the police in the Shelburne Fire Station in Shelburne Center.

The Shelburne Police Department current functions within 2½ rooms in Memorial Hall, but has outgrown the space. It lacks privacy for witness interviews and arrests; also, there is little room for storage of records and equipment said Payne.