AMHERST - The Amherst Police Department may be in the market for a new home.
Chief Charles Rushton presented his department's operational and capital budget to the board of police commissioners during its February session and it includes a request for a new $3.5-million facility to replace the building the department has occupied since 1996.
"We asked for $3.5-million to build a new facility to service the police department," Rushton said following the meeting. "We would recognize that from an operational perspective the existing facility no longer meets our needs. We would be seeking the funds from council to provide a building for the membership that is adequate for the operational requirements of policing in Amherst."
When the department moved into its present quarters 13 years ago it was a renovation project of a former shoe store. At the time it was felt renovating an older building would be more cost-effective than building a new building at a time when the town was experiencing tough financial times.
Rushton understands the economic circumstances aren't ripe for a new building, but he was asked by council to complete an assessment of the existing building and make recommendations.
"There are deficiencies. The building, although initially designed for a policing service, was a renovation and obviously in a renovation you can't always accommodate the operational requirements of a business," the chief said. "In essence we were making changes two to three months after moving in.
"Obviously, it's too small and that hinders our operational requirements."
The recommendation will go forward from police commission to town council, although it's unknown when the town will be in a position to replace the building with a new structure.
Board chair Ray Gallant supports Rushton's request.
"It's something we have already identified," Gallant said. "We'll be working with the chief and the town to try to make this happen."
The cost quoted by Rushton is based on similar-sized buildings built in Bridgewater and Kentville.
Rushton said members of the police commission and town council will tour the existing facility to see what officers are working with every day.
In total, the chief is requesting an overall budget increase of $645,000, most of which will be taken up by salary increases under the collective agreement..
The capital budget also includes requests for new Tasers, in-car cameras and communications equipment.