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Palmerton mulls new police station

Could Palmerton relocate its police department to the site of the former Palmerton Hospital?

That was one of the possibilities floated around Thursday as borough council discussed its police station update and future plans.

Councilman Cory Kepner said the police station has been a topic of discussion for the past nine months.

Kepner said the borough has contracted with an architect, but none of the projects have been completed.

He said they’ve been looking at long-term plans for the police department, and whether it can remain at its current site inside the Municipal Services Building at 401 Delaware Ave.

Kepner then suggested perhaps council should approach St. Luke’s about the former Palmerton Hospital to see if they’d be willing to sell the property to the borough.

Borough Manager Donna McGarry said the borough has been looking for contractors to give it some estimates for work to the current police station.

“It’s not that we’re not trying to make improvements,” McGarry said.

Councilman Kris Hoffner noted that the current holding cell is “really a top priority.”

Borough police Chief Tim Kromer mentioned a recent incident in which a man in custody, who has since died, became difficult to get under control and spit on one of the borough police officers and caused damage to a police vehicle.

“I have reached out to several contractors, but have not gotten quotes back,” McGarry said.

The borough is bound by state bidding requirements. “We have been unsuccessful in getting the required number of quotes and cannot move forward.”

Councilwoman Holly Hausman-Sell said she was confused about the direction of the police station.

“We’re talking about doing upgrades to the current building, and (also) looking at buying a new building,” Hausman-Sell said.

Kepner replied, “Our current building is not built to be a police station.”

Sell told Kepner she would need a list of the inadequacies and noted the community still has to support it.

“You almost need to put together some kind of report,” Sell said.

Kepner said, “There’s definitely some things that need to be addressed.”

Council President Terry Costenbader discussed the possibility of a new building at the former hospital site.

“That is going to need to some serious thought,” Costenbader said. “That particular location is directly in a residential (section), and I don’t know if that is the best scenario.”

Costenbader said his other concerns included access to Delaware Avenue, and where the money would come from.

Kepner said there could be grants available.

Costenbader said he’s heard a lot of money would not be available.

“This needs a lot of thought,” he said.

Kepner said the key is trying to find adequate space, and added he believes a new facility would be the easiest and most streamlined approach to take.

Councilman Michael Ballard noted that many years ago the building directly across from the current Municipal Services Building, formerly a research lab for the New Jersey Zinc Company was converted into S.S. Palmer Elementary School.

“This (Municipal Services) building, we can go up (with the police station),” Ballard said. “I don’t think we should leave Delaware Avenue.”

Sell added, “Building a new facility would certainly be time consuming.”

Kepner said they will seek some community input.

In April, Kepner said that the police department was undergoing safety improvements, with plans for a new holding cell area and lighting upgrades.

It was announced at January’s council meeting the police department was in need of a major remodel.

Mayor Don Herrmann and Kepner toured the department and described the building code violations that required immediate action.

Cleanup work was started inside the police department shortly after January’s council meeting.

Palmerton officials are discussing the status of the police station. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO