Ex-school as police station? Not so fast

Last modified: 12/18/2010 12:00:00 AM
City officials don't think the Walker School would make a good site for a new police station after its last students leave for a new downtown elementary school in 2012, City Manager Tom Aspell said yesterday.

Police Chief Robert Barry has yet to tour the building to make a final determination, but 'his and my inclination is that it would not make a great site because of the size,' Aspell said.

Aspell and other city officials met with Superintendent Chris Rath and other Concord School District officials yesterday to discuss the future of the Walker School property and the district's construction and bond schedule for its elementary-school consolidation project.

As part of that consolidation, three new elementary schools will open in the fall of 2012, including Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, where students who now attend Walker will go. The Walker, Eastman, Dame and Rumford school buildings will be vacated, and Kimball School is to be demolished.

The school district is trying to find other uses for those buildings, and the city has expressed interest in taking over the Dame School on the Heights as the possible site of a new citywide community center.

There have been suggestions in recent months that the Walker School, 4 Church St., would make a good police station, Aspell said. The current station at 35 Green St. is becoming crowded, mostly due to evidence storage, he said.

But the Walker School property may be too small for a new station, and its construction may not be ideal, Aspell said. And the city doesn't expect to build a new police station for another 15 or 20 years under its capital improvement program.

'We can't wait that long,' said school board President Kass Ardinger to laughter.

Barry, who wasn't at yesterday's meeting of the Joint City/School Committee on Cooperation, said he wants to give the Walker School idea a fair shake.

'There have been people, off and on, in the community for the past year that have informally and more formally stated that they believe the Walker School would make a great police station for the city of Concord,' Barry said. 'It has been, I would guess, at least 15 years since I've been in that building, so to respond to their suggestions, I would have to put eyes on that building. That is the extent of the interest I have in the Walker School or anything connected to the Walker School.'

Aspell said the city is looking at several sites as possible storage spaces for police evidence, including the Green Street Community Center, which is among a complex of municipal buildings on Green Street including City Hall and the police headquarters. The community center could be freed up if the city goes ahead with a city-wide center elsewhere.

'We do have some needs that we project over the next 20 years, and we are kind of doing our due diligence to try to identify what our needs are going to be,' Barry said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.)

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