A leaky roof, lack of space and aging infrastructure are just some of the problems plaguing the roughly 40-year-old building that houses the Chapel Hill Police Department.
“We’re kind of at our max capacity within this building," said Assistant Chief Jabe Hunter. “It's getting to the point now where we do have to look at other options."
Building a new structure on the site at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard isn’t a viable option, in part because police headquarters sits on an old coal ash dump site.
Hunter said the ash isn’t a problem for daily operations, but it could limit use of the land and require remediation in the future.
“While it's not dangerous for us for our building to be here, it is a consideration should we choose to build on this site,” said Hunter. “That's one of the factors that's sort of weighing on us looking at other options around town.”
The coal ash was discovered in 2013. Town officials think it was dumped sometime in the 1960s. Chapel Hill is working with the state Department of Environmental Quality to develop a plan for the ash once the police department is relocated.
Town officials had been working on an agreement to lease land off Estes Drive from UNC, but a recent change to the university’s lease policy made that plan unworkable. The town is now in the early stages of negotiation with Ram Realty to see if a new municipal services center can be built at University Place Mall. The center would combine several town operations into one centrally located site. Hunter said it could also offer public meeting space.
“The more convenient we can make it for the public’s use, the better,” he said.
There’s no firm timeline for when a new police headquarters could be completed, but Hunter said he’s hoping the town can find a new site before the roof at the old facility has to be completely replaced.
“That’s our major repair that we’re looking at next, which we hope not to do,” he said. “We think we can advance this project for a municipal services center at a rate that we won’t have to do the roof and [we can] save that money.”