City eyes The Grove for new police station

The Ashland City Council has approved spending $94,020 for an architectural firm to design plans that would turn The Grove into a possible new home for the Ashland Police Department.

Medford-based Straus & Seibert Architects also will develop cost estimates for the proposed transition.

The City Council has not voted formally to transform The Grove into a new police station, but it did adopt a goal in February to examine its feasibility. The council also budgeted money for the architectural services, which will be paid for out of savings from the consolidation of emergency dispatch operations.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilwoman Carol Voisin said she is concerned that council members are moving forward without enough public input about The Grove's future.

"I think the public — most — doesn't know this is happening," she said, suggesting the city host a town hall meeting on the subject.

Voisin said the actual remodel of The Grove could cost $1 million.

But Councilman Russ Silbiger said the topic has come up during a number of public council meetings, and people have not come forward to speak about The Grove.

The Grove once operated as a teen center, but it closed in 2003 because of budget issues and flagging interest on the part of teenagers.

The building on East Main Street, located across a parking lot from the current police department, is used primarily by the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department for community recreation programs, such as language, exercise, music and art classes.

Parks Director Don Robertson said those classes could be relocated to other venues, such as Pioneer Hall and the Community Center on Winburn Way next to Lithia Park, and in the parks office building.

The department could also look for opportunities to partner with the Ashland School District to have classes in school buildings, Robertson said.

The Grove is available for rent to people planning wedding receptions and other events. The parks department manages facility rentals for buildings such as The Grove, the Community Center and Pioneer Hall.

"We've known all along that our use of The Grove was of a temporary nature. We knew at some point, we wouldn't have access to it anymore," Robertson said.

The Grove was named after the late deputy director of Community Works Steve Groveman, who helped found the teen center. (Correction: Groveman's title has been corrected in this story.)

The building is owned by the city of Ashland. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development contributed $250,000 toward the building's price. The money came with a requirement that the building be used partially to provide programs and services for low- and moderate-income people.

The city of Ashland bought out HUD's share several years ago, freeing up uses for the building, Robertson said.

In 2010, a Public Safety Bond Committee appointed by the City Council said the police department needs more space. Remodeling The Grove and moving police there would be more cost-effective than remodeling or replacing the existing police department, the committee found.

If police vacated the building, that would free up office space for other city departments, according to city officials.

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