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September 13, 2023

Auburn voters will decide fate of proposed $45M public safety building

rendering of white building Courtesy / City of Auburn Auburn voters will be asked this November whether the city should build a new public safety facility, which might look like this rendering.

Space constraints and the need for major repairs are driving an initiative in Auburn to build a new public safety building that could cost as much as $45 million.

Voters will be asked in November whether the city should authorize bonds or notes up to that amount and then appropriate the proceeds to fund construction of a facility. It would be located at 550 Minot Ave., and would replace the Auburn Central Fire Station there with headquarters of both the city’s police department and fire department.

Previous debt management has positioned Auburn well to take on the project, the city said in a news release. Between 2008 and 2018, in anticipation of the need for a public safety building, elected officials and staff reduced Auburn's outstanding bonds by 26.5%. 

At its meeting last week, the Auburn City Council acted on an ad-hoc Public Safety Building Committee recommendation and voted 6-1 to move the question to voters.

The decision followed years of professional facility assessments and analysis, planning, committee work, site evaluations and public meetings.

City officials believe the need for a new public safety building is critical due to issues such as accessibility, gender accommodations, space constraints, lack of storage and life-health issues for first responders. 

After exploring options, locations and iterations of the project, the Public Safety Building Committee determined that housing the two departments in one facility would be the best choice for efficient delivery of services and overall costs to taxpayers. 

In 2011, the Auburn Police Department relocated from its home at 1 Minot Ave. to City Hall at 60 Court St. as a temporary solution to space constraints and a need for costly repairs.

The department continues to work there, but the  building wasn’t designed to support law enforcement functions. The police department faces numerous safety concerns in the facility, such as prisoner interaction with the public, pedestrian safety and access to police safety equipment. There’s a lack of adequate locker rooms and gender accommodations, few restrooms and training spaces, and insufficient storage for evidence, records, police equipment, uniforms and supplies. 

The Central Fire Station, which houses Engine 3, was built in 1972 and was cutting-edge at the time of its construction.

But the building no longer meets the needs of a modern fire service, according to the city. Among the priorities for the station are the ability to protect firefighters by safely processing contaminated gear and dispersing diesel exhaust fumes. The facility also lacks enough storage, isn't ADA-compliant and cannot accommodate Auburn’s primary ladder truck.

The city plans to share video tours and other project materials on social media, and to host informational public meetings on the project.

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