County eyes Auburn’s empty police station

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AUBURN — The recently vacated police station at One Minot Avenue is getting a look by leaders from Androscoggin County, perhaps as a temporary home for the Sheriff’s Department.

Capt. Ray Lafrance, who leads the sheriff’s patrol division, recently toured the downtown station with county-hired consultants.

The city of Auburn has offered similar tours to anyone from the county wishing to take a look at the newly remodeled police station, just a few hundred yards from the aging county courthouse.

“At this point, we’re just brainstorming,” County Commissioner Elaine Makas said. Any decision is months away.

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The county is undergoing a top-to-bottom analysis of its Civil War-era courthouse, the home to the registries of deeds and probate, the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office and the three-member County Commission, among other offices.

Two companies — Providence-based Ricci Greene Associates and Auburn-based Harriman architectural — are working together on a proposal to modernize the 154-year-old courthouse.

A draft of their plan is due to be released in early July, County Clerk Patricia Fournier said.

A courthouse fix would likely cost millions of dollars and be spread over several construction phases. Before any changes are made, commissioners have promised opportunities for the public to weigh in.

Meanwhile, the city is unsure what it wants to do with the former police station.

Auburn police moved out of the building last month and relocated to Auburn Hall, across the street from the courthouse.

Several private companies have inquired about the empty police station, said Roland Miller, Auburn’s economic development director.

“There are a range of possibilities for the property,” he said.

The county has to decide the scale of its renovation and whether it wants to back an earlier study that suggested relocating the Sheriff’s Department to a new building, County Commissioner Jonathan LaBonte said.

Makas said she was undecided about what ought to be in a renovated county building. There’s no need to rush such a decision, she said.

The eventual plan will have many parts, including a possible merger of departments and additional safety measures, particularly in maintaining barriers in the courtroom between accused criminals, victims, jurors and members of the gallery.

The location of the Sheriff’s Department is secondary to her, Makas said. “It’s still early. It’s a healthy process. I love the idea that these options are there.”

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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