BELFAST, Maine — Right now, the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department office is located in a 200-year-old house with antiquated technology and a reputation for the worst working conditions in the state, according to Donald Berry, chairman of the Waldo County commissioners.
But that is about to change, he announced Tuesday morning.
The county commissioners have elected to build a brand-new, million-dollar sheriff’s office, and they will do it with no additional costs to Waldo County taxpayers — and with no need to look for federal grants or loans, he said.
“I am really excited about making this happen,” Berry said. “I think it’s a very positive happening.”
Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story said the feeling is mutual.
“The whole agency is very excited about getting out of our house,” he said.
The department has had its headquarters there for nearly 20 years. Eighteen administrative and patrol staff work out of the building.
Berry said the county has been saving tax money each year in an “undesignated” fund balance, which has grown to about $641,000. Altogether, Waldo County will spend half a million dollars from that fund, plus $113,500 from a future sheriff’s building fund, about $40,000 in a reserve account for “all other facilities,” $70,898 from county planning, and $289,775 from the future county land and buildings account.
He said officials crunched the numbers last week and determined there was enough cash on hand to start construction soon.
It will be money very well spent, Berry said.
“The sheriff’s office is the most appalling building. Conditions there are so bad,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. It has been our goal to do something about this sheriff’s office … and it’s going to happen.”
He said there were some “very excited” people in the sheriff’s office Tuesday.
County officials have been looking at designs and are envisioning constructing an L-shaped building adjacent to the new Waldo County Regional Communications Center off Miller Street. Story said his agency “has a seat at the table” as the building committee works on its design.
The new sheriff’s office will take up one side of the L and be about 9,000 square feet, Berry said. The other side of the L will be the new home for the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency. That side will be constructed for about $420,000, about $360,000 of which is from a grant from the Federal Emergency Man-agement Agency.
Although the construction finances must be separated, because the two offices will be adjacent to each other their heating, air conditioning, computer plant and bathrooms all can be shared, Berry said.
Construction is expected to take place on a tight schedule, with the new building closed in by fall so the interior can be finished over the winter.
“It means we’re in sprint mode, but is there a better time to do it?” Berry asked. “Construction companies are looking for work and people are looking for work. I would like to be able to see us in the building a year from now.”