Clarification: A previous version of this article contained incorrect information regarding what will be done with the department's current building on Lincoln Street. It has been updated in the story below.
BENNINGTON -- The Bennington County Sheriff's Department has entered into a purchase and sale contract with a local auto dealer to move into an abandoned building on Route 7, south of town.
Bennington County Sheriff Chad D. Schmidt spoke to the Select Board Monday, asking for the board's approval. The board complied.
Schmidt said the department will likely move to 811 Route 7, which is owned by Carbone Auto Group. It used to be a car dealership, but most recently was a research and development center for Plasan Carbon Composites. It has been vacant for about two years. On the lot is a smaller building, which used to be a show room for the dealership. The department will own that as well, and according to Schmidt will use it as a secure impound facility.
The Sheriff's Department is currently at 212 Lincoln St., a building which Schmidt said is owned by Green Mountain Power.
The 6.88-acre site on Route 7 is assessed at $664,000, which Town Manager Stuart Hurd said appears too high, as Carbone has recently had it assessed at $255,000.
A memo from Hurd to the board indicates the Bennington County Assistant Judges were also seeking a letter indicating whether the town supports the proposal.
The Sheriff's Department has outgrown its current facility, said Schmidt. It is also falling out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said the move will also revitalize a prominent abandoned building that has been vacant for a long time.
Hurd said at the larger assessed value the town gets about $6,000 in taxes. If the new appraisal is accepted by the town, it would be closer to $2,500. The property, which includes two buildings, would go off the town's tax rolls.
If the deal is made, Schmidt has agreed to freeze his transportation costs at $20 per hour, and 30 cents per mile for five years. This should save $4,670 in the coming year.
The move will also provide space for a propane tank, as Schmidt plans to begin converting some cruisers to propane fuel.
Bennington Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Paul Doucette voiced his support for the deal, saying a new impound lot would be helpful. The current space used by the town on Burgess Road is prone to vandalism and theft, he said. The extra space would be beneficial, too, as vehicles involved in crashes are often impounded and take up space for long periods of time.
According to Hurd's memo, such a move would allow the town to impound vehicles for free, thus saving $1,444 per year. Combined with the rate freezes, this should offset the cost to the tax rolls by the sheriff's department buying 811 Route 7.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.