After years of searching and a lot of stopping and starting, it looks like the Frederick Police Department may have found a new home — and it is less than a mile from the current headquarters downtown.
If the building works, we can all offer a sigh of relief.
The Frederick mayor and Board of Aldermen will meet Thursday to consider buying the building at 100 E. All Saints St., which once housed the county’s Department of Social Services.
The proposed price tag seems reasonable at $6 million, especially when compared to the cost of constructing a new building, which was being considered.
The Department of Social Services moved out of the building in 2017 after the state, which leased the office, was unable to reach an agreement on a new term with the owners, Nathan Family, LLC.
The office was moved far north, to 1888 N. Market St., almost to Liberty Road, a decision that pleased almost no one. Many clients of the department must depend on public transportation, and several live around the downtown area. They had been able to walk into the office or take buses to the East Street transit center. After the move, the county had to create a shuttle service from downtown to the new office.
The building, which was named for former governor William Donald Schaefer, has about 65,300 square feet of space and is roughly four times the size of the current police headquarters. It has been vacant since Social Services moved.
The city police department has been located in the Frederick County Courthouse for nearly 40 years, but it long ago outgrew that space. The courthouse office has about 16,300 square feet, and the department also uses city-owned space in the parking garage across the street. Altogether, the department uses about 25,000 square feet.
The city has been studying the need for a new police headquarters since at least 2017. Chief Jason Lando, who was hired this year, said the need for more and better space is critical to the department.
“When I first arrived in Frederick and began assessing the needs of the organization, I was immediately struck by how inadequate this current facility is for the needs of the police department,” Lando wrote in an email to News-Post reporter Mary Grace Keller.
“Our employees are basically working on top of each other, we lack appropriate space to process and store important evidence used in the prosecution of cases, and we have no community space, which is important in a modern-day police facility.”
Police spokesman Allen Etzler told our reporter that the city has budgeted $25 million for a new headquarters, and the Schaefer building would have to be renovated to meet the department’s specific needs.
If the mayor and aldermen approve the contract, the department’s first move will be to do a feasibility study to determine whether the building can be adapted at a reasonable cost. If it is possible, the department could move to the new offices in late 2023, Etzler told our reporter.
However, if the study does not show the building will work for the department, the contract gives the city until Dec. 5 to back out of the purchase agreement, with no loss to the city.
Lando said the All Saints Street building would keep police downtown while ensuring adequate response times across the city. He said it is a priority to keep headquarters centrally located and easily accessible. Lando also said the building’s size will meet current needs and give the department room to grow.
We agree that the location looks ideal. If the renovation can be done at a reasonable cost, this looks like a great solution for the department and the city.