York Town Manager Stephen Burns, left, announced a bid of $1.2 million at an auction for the American Legion post and town Finance Director Wendy Anderson claps after auctioneer Stefan Keenan said they won the bid for the town of York in this July 2015 file photo. The town bought the building with the intention of converting it into a police station. Credit: Deb Cram | The York Weekly

YORK — The plan to convert the former American Legion function hall into a new police station will move forward.

The Planning Board recently reviewed and unanimously approved the plan, after brief discussion and holding a public hearing during which no member of the public offered an opinion on the plan.

“This is an important step, and I am very excited to see this moving forward,” Town Manager Steve Burns told The York Weekly after the April 14 board vote.

In an April 5 memo to the board, Lee Jay Feldman of the Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission wrote that he had “no issues with this application. Everything is in order and there are no conditions of approval proposed at this time.” Feldman consults with the town of York when there is an application from the town to the town.

The town purchased the American Legion building, located at 9 Hannaford Drive, last summer for $1.2 million, a portion of the $3.9 million approved by voters for the project. The reconstruction into a new police station can cost no more than $2.7 million.

The Police Station Building Committee has been working toward a late-spring construction start of the project. With the town’s approval, the project will now go to bid, and when the bids are returned in early May, “then we will find out if it can be built within our budget,” Chairman Wayne Martin of Police Station Building Committee said in late March.

The Ramsdell-Rogers American Legion Post 56 moved out of its former space in November. For years, it struggled under debt incurred when a former contractor defrauded it of funds to build its former Hannaford Drive home. Last spring, members decided to cut their losses and put the building on the market. Three weeks ago, the Legion officially opened its doors at its new home in Meadowbrook Plaza in the former Nolita’s Restaurant’s space.

Police Station Building Committee Chairman Martin has spent the past several months reviewing the conceptual plans with Geoff Aleva of Civil Consultants, hired by the town to prepare design documents, take the town through permitting and contractor bidding and act as owner’s representative during construction.

On Thursday, Aleva said passersby will notice little of the construction work as most of it will happen inside. He called the Legion building a “good shell of a structure that will be a great place for renovation.”

Little has changed from the layout created by Police Station Building Committee member and retired architectural draftsman William Masterson, according to Martin. A 2,370-square-foot building addition will be constructed over a portion of the rear parking lot. The addition will house a sallyport designed to securely transfer those who are arrested from the cruiser to the station and booking area.

A 125-foot tower will be erected in the back of the building, and several small sections of landscaped island will be removed and converted to pavement to facilitate plowing within the parking lot.

Feldman wrote the “biggest issue of this location would be police cars needing access to Route 1 during an emergency situation.” However, he noted the concern is obviated by traffic signals at the Route 1-Route 91 intersection that are “fully actuated,” allowing emergency vehicles “to have the right of way when approaching an intersection by freezing all motorist at the light until the emergency vehicles have passed and then returning the traffic lights back to a normal cycle.”