Caribou voters approved $10 million for a new police station.
Caribou Police Sgt. Keith Ouellette points to an area of the station's break room that has had excessive water leakage in recent years. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican & News

CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou residents have approved $10 million for a new police station.

The referendum in Tuesday evening’s primary election passed 591 to 418.

For Caribou police, the referendum marks the first major step toward moving out of cramped quarters and into a building with proper space for storing evidence, which includes hundreds of weapons and sensitive case files. It means a future police station that will not have the structural and plumbing issues of the current building, such as mold on the garage walls and leaky faucets in jail cells.

The fate of the too-small space in the basement of the circa-1940 municipal building has divided city councilors since last summer, when they first debated placing a non-binding survey question on the November 2021 ballot. Some councilors have supported the proposed $10 million facility, which would expand storage space for evidence, weapons and vehicles and add new jail cells, but the price has not been a selling point for many.

But now, with the support of voters, Chief Michael Gahagan and the City Council’s public safety building committee will work to secure funding to make the new station a reality.

Most recently the city’s proposal garnered support from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who included a request of $2.5 million in her list of Maine projects to receive federal funding. Other options include Aroostook’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The city will send requests for proposals to architectural firms by the end of this summer. Once they choose a company, the city will work with the architects on a design for the new station.

“We’re happy that the citizens realized how much a new place for the police department is needed,” Gahagan said.

After voting Tuesday, many Caribou residents cited the lack of sufficient space at the current station, located in the basement of Caribou’s municipal building, while the $10 million price tag was a sticking point for those who voted against it.

“We should have gotten a new station 20 years ago,” said Miles Williams, a former Caribou city councilor. “I’ve toured the station, and it’s in rough shape. A new building would bring us out of the 1940s and into a new era.”