Take a peek inside the old Dartmouth Police Station

Jul 23, 2019

With the Dartmouth Police Department poised to start moving into its new Tucker Road headquarters soon, what to do with the department’s old Russells Mills Road headquarters building is the big question on officials’ minds. 

Construction on the department’s Tucker Road headquarters is on schedule to wrap up in August, and the department expects to begin the move-in process in September. Once complete, it will leave the 1.97-acre site at 249 Russells Mills Road vacant. 

A new Police Station Use Review Committee has been established to come up with a plan for the department’s property, and on July 23, the group met for the second time to take a tour of the site to see its condition firsthand. 

The committee focused on the main building on the site, a 22,128 square-foot, two-story former town hall which was the department’s previous headquarters. The department was forced to vacate it and shift operations to modular units located behind the building after an officer became sick with Legionnaires Disease in 2014.

Deputy Police Chief James Storey led the committee - made up of town officials and residents - through the station, which has been vacant for five years. Inside, flooring and walls in some spots have been removed or damaged by water, and damage was visible in some spots. 

Outside, an underground fuel storage tank and the department’s modular units which currently house the police station could also add expense to potential redevelopment. The town no longer has wheels for the modular units. 

“I just wanted to get everyone together today to see the site,” said Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes. He noted the building is indeed in rough shape, but the condition is not as bad as he initially thought. 

Still, just by taking a peek inside, MacInnes said he feels bringing it up to par for potential reuse could be a challenge. 

“It looks like it’s going to take a lot of effort, and a lot of dollars,” MacInnes said. 

At the committee’s first meeting in June, residents on the committee brainstormed a number of possible uses for the property, from senior or veteran housing to an income-generating use to offset cleanup costs. 

Discussion about the future of the building itself noted many uncertainties with its current condition, leading to the July 23 site tour. 

“I think we’ll narrow down our options that we think are appropriate and then we’ll set our course of getting estimates and costs for each of these options,” MacInnes said after the site tour. 

At the committee’s next meeting, rough estimates for demolition of the building, tank, and trailers will be prepared, and discussion about potential reuse options will be continued as well. 

Attempts to reuse or redevelop the property have stalled several times. Initially, after the department was forced to vacate the main building, plans for an $8.4 million renovation of the station were put together. Town Meeting members approved it in 2015 but the required debt exclusion was voted down in the 2016 town election.  

In 2017, then-Town Administrator David Cressman tried to gain traction to rezone the station property to make it more attractive to condo developers who might be more willing to cover demolition costs, which fizzled when the Planning Board did not advance the idea.