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Chapel Hill Police Department relocating to leased space on Fordham Boulevard

The Chapel Hill Police Department currently sits on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The Chapel Hill Police Department plans to relocate from its current station at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to a space in The Parkline building at 1830 Fordham Blvd. 

The department is moving due to deterioration of its current building, which was built in 1982. The new location is about four miles away from the MLK Jr. Boulevard station. 

During its Sept. 13 meeting, the Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously to approve a lease to take out space at The Parkline for the department. The lease has not been finalized yet, Alex Carrasquillo, the Town's community safety public information officer, said in an email.

The decision comes after years of environmental concerns about the department's current location due to the discovery of coal ash under the station and in the surrounding area.

At the council meeting, Chapel Hill police chief Celisa Lehew discussed the conditions of the department building and displayed images of its maintenance issues to council members. 

She said that during a recent weather event, their generator failed and compromised their record-keeping system.

"On Monday, a member of our professional staff arrived to work to find her computer destroyed from a water leak," she said at the meeting. 

Furthermore, the week before the meeting, Lehew said she grabbed a uniform out of her locker to find that it was full of mildew.

Carrasquillo said that The Parkline building would address the police department's need for additional space for training and storage, both of which are limited at their current station. He said it would also provide space to accommodate the department’s officers and administrative staff, as well as parking for patrol cars. 

Carrasquillo said the department's crisis unit, which has grown over the years to staff eight mental health professionals, would benefit from the space as well.

In addition, the new location includes a gym for personnel to use. This would promote the health and wellness of police staff, whichCarrasquillo said is a priority among police leaders.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the town council has spent time considering many potential sites for the new police department's location, which has pushed back the relocation and caused the current building to deteriorate further.

Town council member Michael Parker emphasized providing the right space for police officers to work.

“We rely on our police department to help keep everybody in town safe, and so I think it's incumbent upon us as Town government to make sure that we're giving our police officers space that is adequate for them to do their jobs, and is pleasant and safe for them to work,” Parker said.

Parker said building a new police station on the current site would take several years, that and the Town wants to act more quickly than that.

While voters passed a bond to build a new municipal services building, Hemminger said the bond is not going to cover the full price of building the facility. 

Because of factors such as market pressures and interest rates, she said it is unlikely that the bond money can be used for the building within the next few years.

Leasing space at The Parkline will give short-term relief to the police department, Hemminger said. 

She added that, though there may be an opportunity for the Town to purchase The Parkline building, many details still need to be worked out.

“I've been here almost eight years and we've been wrestling with this the entire time and it's time to actually do something,” Hemminger said. “I'm proud of the staff for coming up with a solution that helps us in the short term and I'm hopeful for a long-term solution as well.”

@DTHCityState |

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