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News - April 10, 2013

Belle Haven may yet see active police substation

by Sandy Brundage

Buried in discussion of Menlo Park's upcoming budget was a hint as to the fate of a long-awaited, active police substation in Belle Haven.

While the community does have a semblance of a substation already on Newbridge Street, the facility remains unstaffed and not open to the public. Menlo Park police want to change that, and are exploring locating a new substation in a strip mall at Hamilton Avenue and Willow Road.

The new substation would be staffed at least part-time and include regular hours along with officers rotating through while on patrol, according to Commander Dave Bertini. The substation would cost the city an estimated $100,000 per year.

He said the strip mall site offers 900-square-feet of space. Trying to renovate the Newbridge Street substation into a functioning facility would cost at least $131,000 to make improve handicapped accessibility and security, on top of the $1,000 per month rent.

City Manager Alex McIntyre said the Menlo Park Fire Protection District had offered space in its disaster response center off Willow Road, but the city decided that creating a substation tucked away in a business park would provide too great an obstacle to community interaction.

Menlo Park has been trying to open a new substation in Belle Haven since 2004, but that stalled out due to disputes between the city and the developer, Willow Corners LLC, according to city staff. Construction of a two-story, 3,800-square-foot facility was supposed to be finished in 2008, but repeated delays essentially killed the project.

Vice Mayor Ray Mueller helped revive the idea, asking during a study session on the city's capital projects list on March 26 why the substation was no longer a priority. He followed up again during a budget discussion on April 2, suggesting that the city use one-time revenue expected from Facebook to fund the facility.

"I think this is worth it," he said. "Every time we have an uptick in crime, we talk about a substation."

The item will return to the council for a vote on whether to appropriate the money in upcoming months.


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