For about a decade, Easton’s police department has been squeezed for space. That’s about to change with the start of construction on a larger $7.2 million station.
After considering several sites throughout the city, officials settled on North Fourth Street on the lot next to the former Express-Times building. Monday afternoon, officials hosted a groundbreaking ceremony that highlighted the importance of building a station that would meet today’s needs for security and safety in a city that’s continuing an economic turnaround.
Construction of the new police station should take about a year, and the building has room for expansion, Mayor Sal Panto said.
The three-story, 28,000-square-foot police station will be connected to the former Express-Times building. Workers also will renovate the interior of that building.
Kevin Hughes, president of Longview Construction in Reading, said he expects to have the building complete by next summer. Construction will start this week, beginning with demolition, he said. His company has completed several police stations in New York, he added.
“Inside, we are building a shooting range, new holding cells, fitness center, evidence storage and an interior sally port [secure entryway] to store a large tactile vehicle,” Hughes said. These elements will be part of the renovated former Express-Times building.
The new construction, which will be built in front, includes building administrative support facilities and new locker rooms. Once complete, the station could have 65 officers and encompass about 100 employees, he added.
Workers will demolish part of the former Express-Times building to add parking. Additional parking is also available to the rear of the site across from an alley, Hughes said.
Panto said 63 police officers will move to the new police station, as well as five civilian staff members and about six parking enforcement officers. They will move from the station on the first floor of the city-owned parking garage at Third and Pine streets.
“Sooner or later, that Third Street garage has to come down,” Panto said, noting that it’s beyond its 40-year life cycle.
Panto said the city needed to find a site for the police station that would offer parking for about 60 vehicles and allow ease of access to the neighborhoods, including College Hill and the West Ward.
Across North Fourth Street, the city plans to build a deck with 500 spaces on a parking lot, which would offer additional parking for the station.
The city hired Alloy5 Architecture of Bethlehem to review plans for the new station, and the firm also is reviewing construction specifications.
“This project has been on the city’s radar since former Mayor Phil Mitman,” Panto said. “It took us 8 ½ years, but we made it a priority.”
Motley Associates of Shillington is the consulting engineer for the project, while Ashley Development of Bethlehem is the developer.
Lou Pektor, owner of Ashley Development, has also shown interest in redeveloping the former Heritage Lanes bowling alley across from the City Hall and Intermodal Center on South Third Street.
For the former Express-Times building, Pektor said he did not have a particular end user in mind.
“I liked the building; I liked the architecture,” Pektor said. “The team we put together was very important. Hopefully a year from now, certainly a year from now, we will have a building that looks like the rendering.”
He cited Merchants Bank as being open and receptive to doing the financing for the project.
“This is really an ideal location,” said state Rep. Bob Freeman, one of the speakers. “Many cities like Easton suffered under urban renewal. A city thrives when those buildings are filled.”