LEWISTON — City officials are moving ahead with negotiations on a lease agreement that would move the Lewiston Police Department headquarters to Bates Mill No. 7.

Officials said Tuesday that the 48,000 square-foot building owned by developer Tom Platz is a more cost effective alternative to building an entirely new headquarters. A study commissioned last year identified several major issues with the department’s current headquarters on Park Street, but listed the price tag for building new or renovating at more than $30 million.

A working lease agreement shared with city councilors Tuesday put the cost of redeveloping the Bates Mill No. 7 space for police needs at $12 million, with a $420,000 annual rent. After year six of the lease, the city would have the option to purchase the building.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct staff to negotiate the “final terms” of the agreement, with a final document to be voted on later this month.

Lease negotiations are ongoing for the city to lease Bates Mill No. 7 as for the new headquarters of the Lewiston Police Department. TD Bank left the four-story building in 2020. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Councilors toured the Bates Mill building on Monday and were optimistic about the plan. Councilor Stephanie Gelinas said the lease option is affordable but will also give the department the needed space and a great location in the city.

“Our police department is worthy and where they are now is not enough space,” she said.

The police station at 171 Park St. was built in 1986 and according to last year’s report, is an example of a facility that has, “exceeded the lifespan of many building components and as a police facility.”

The report said the building suffers from outdated systems, poor ventilation, inadequate space and a lack of appropriate accommodations for female officers.

Police Chief David St. Pierre said Tuesday that his department is in support of the move. He said Lewiston has issues with retention, and that outside of the cost savings, a larger facility “will speak volumes” for the department’s personnel.

“They’re working in substandard conditions right now,” he said. “This is a great step in the right direction, will improve morale and get people motivated to come to work everyday.”

Last year, the city leased the former violations bureau building on Park Street to members of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and an FBI task force due to inadequate space at the police station. St. Pierre said Tuesday that the personnel would join the police department at Mill No. 7 and pay part of the rent.

According to a council memo, the four-story former mill building has been evaluated for its feasibility as a police headquarters. Located at the intersection of Lincoln and Chestnut streets, the building includes 142 surface parking spaces. The building’s former tenant, TD Bank, left in 2020 when the large majority of its employees remained working remotely, keeping some office space at the nearby Bates Mill No. 3.

Mayor Mark Cayer said Tuesday that shortly after the initial building study was released — showing a high price tag, just as the city was in the middle of building new fire sub-stations — he met with Platz, who floated the idea.

“I about ran to city administration,” he said. “(Platz has) stepped up to the plate so many times for this city. He’s a businessman and is making a dollar, but he bends over backwards to do things that are at a cost savings for this community.”

Councilor Lee Clement, a former police officer, said that he saw the current police station conditions last year and was disappointed. He said the option for Mill No. 7 was initially “not even on our radar,” but that the “cost savings are tremendous.”

“I think it’s a very positive move, and I’m all for it,” he said.

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