City Council votes to move Farmington Police Department to new digs across town

John R. Moses
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The former Hilcorp office building on Bloomfield Highway will eventually house the city’s police station, replacing the much-remodeled 1950s-vintage structure on Municipal Drive, after the Farmington City Council voted unanimously June 3 to close the deal.

The deal would transfer to the city 7.62 acres of property at 5750 Bloomfield Highway formerly housing Hilcorp San Juan, L.P.

City spokesperson Georgette Allen told the Daily Times that the escrow payment has been made and a title company is preparing documents for a closing sometime in July.

The 50,000 square feet of office space comes – furnished – for $3 million, but will require renovation expenses of up to another $3 million, the council heard during their June 3 special session. 

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City Manager Rob Mayes said during the special sesion that the renovation funds will come from a budget adjustment wherein the city will allocate already-collected revenues. That sum will come from a fund that holds money that "spilled over" from last year's identified savings, instances where city revenues exceeded the amount expected in the previous budget. 

That's the same spillover account that covered the purchase price, Mayor Nate Duckett said on June 10.

Among the needed additions the city noted were a secure evidence room, bulletproof glass, an armory and other things not found in the average corporate office.   

The city's announcement on June 9 said the property “is being sold under market value thanks to the generosity of Hilcorp.”

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In this file photo, Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe shows off what in November of 2015 was the new evidence room added to the Farmington Police Department's current headquarters. A move across town will mean the construction of another new evidence storage area.

Cheaper to renovate than to build

City leaders estimated that it would cost $60 million to build a new station from scratch, and each city councilor who voted for it issued statements supporting the decision. 

“There’s no way in my opinion that we were going to be able to fund any construction of a new facility that would fit what we would need for the next 30 years,” said Mayor Duckett.

Duckett noted the benefits of buying that property both under its market value and full of the previous business’ furniture. 

Councilor Linda Rodgers said she was excited about replacing the aging police facility and hoped the new facility would help department leaders with managing the department efficiently.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe

Mayes said the new facility not only looks better but might help with recruitment of more officers by showing the city’s commitment to public safety. Maintaining high morale among those on the force, he said in the release, leads to improved officer retention.

Some said the decision is a turning point for the city and a benefit for the region.

“The magnitude of this moment is a lot to take in, it’s a lot to absorb, the benefit that this could provide to our community,” said  City Councilor Janis Jakino. “And I hope it’s not lost on anyone that in spite of recent trends oil and gas is still continuing to provide, indirectly, to the safety and health of our community through this transaction.”

Police chief happy with the vote

Police Chief Steve Hebbe, who in March told the Daily Times a new building was needed, said in a news release that new site will be a big improvement.

“From an operational and leadership standpoint, we’ve reached our limit with this building and continuing to put a Band-aid on its wounds isn’t in the best interest of the taxpayers,” Hebbe said in a news release June 9. “Farmington is growing, and its police department must grow with it for the health and safety of our residents and visitors.”

Hebbe said the move will improve departmental communication and cooperation between divisions when their offices are housed in the same building.

He told the City Council before their vote June 3 that the move means creating a permanent real crime center to monitor crimes as they happen, and has enough lot space for an impound yard.

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The Farmington Police Department will trade in it's old headquarters on Municipal Drive for a newer building the city will retrofit to create a modern headquarters.

"The facility really is outstanding," Hebbe said.

The release said the patrol division and the department’s detectives and other specialty units are in separate buildings, along with code compliance officers and the animal control team.

“FPD is grateful to the City Council, Mayor Duckett and City Manager Mayes for purchasing this building as it is a huge milestone toward upgrading our facilities,” Hebbe said in the release. “The move to this location will allow the entire department to be located in the same building for the first time in almost 15 years, the benefits of which we know will directly impact the citizens we serve.”

The release noted that the police station now in use, at 900 Municipal Dr., “was built in the 1950s. Over the years, it’s had several additions with significant improvements made in 1961, 1962, 1973 and 2003 to meet the needs of an increased number of police employees and services.”

The city has discussed replacing the station for decades, and 10 years ago dropped the idea of building a new facility on Andrea Drive after a study found soil conditions that would have been too expensive to fix to support a large facility.

"A formal plan for the old police station has not yet been made," Allen said on June 9.

A call to Hilcorp for comment June 9 and June 10 were not returned.

A tax credit for Hilcorp to allow the firm to seek a tax deduction for the amount it sold the building for below market price was discussed during the June 3 special City Council meeting.

Firearms are seen stored in November of 2015 inside what then was the new evidence room at the current Farmington Police Department headquarters. A new evidence facility in a new police headquarters will replace the current facility after city councilors voted to move the police station across town to a more modern building.

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at jmoses@daily-times.com.

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