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Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller sent this letter to the City Council proposing a unique way to fund building a new headquarters for the Newton Police Department (bold added for emphasis)

Dear Councilors,

 I recently toured our police facilities (the main building, the annex, and the garage) as well as the police headquarters in Watertown and Weston. I was struck again by what many of us already know: The Newton Police Department facilities are too small; the layout is functionally inadequate; parking is too limited; and the structure doesn’t meet current earthquake safety codes.

Addressing these issues would require demolishing the historic building, a real shame. Starting from scratch on the current site isn’t promising, it’s too small for the department’s needs. The financial reality of this endeavor and the large number of other priority building projects has pushed planning for such a police project far down the road.

But what if there were a way to capture the value of the headquarters, a prized piece of real estate in West Newton Square, and find a way to build a new station, preserve the historic building and strengthen the vibrancy of the village center?

I have been thinking of just that scenario.

Last night I shared some ideas during an informal meeting with members of the City Council leadership and I’m now filling you all in on the possibilities as we move forward together to explore all the options.

To that end, a Request for Interest (RFI) is now being drafted asking parties about their interest in purchasing the police properties while preserving the headquarters building, and/or offering land for the City to purchase for a new police headquarters, and/or a swap that could give the City a site (and funding) to begin construction of a new headquarters in exchange for the West Newton headquarters, garage, and annex. I would also be interested in obtaining additional space for recreational use through this process, either at the new police complex or at a separate location.

The idea is to leverage the value of the West Newton police properties to provide an opportunity to greatly accelerate construction of a new police headquarters and recreational facilities that would otherwise be financially unattainable for years to come.

At this point this is just an idea, but one I believe is worth pursuing. At the end of the RFI process we could decide it won’t work. But we also might find ourselves with a solution that would benefit all of Newton.  This comes at an opportune time when we’re just embarking on a community-based process about the future of Washington Street, including West Newton Square. Reimagining the use of the police headquarters dovetails nicely with this work.

We plan on sharing the RFI with you soon. Please be in touch with me. Let’s brainstorm.

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller