LARS to occupy former police station during remodeling
Nonprofit that aids homeless will get free use of city space
The Laurel Police Department's move into a new facility on Fifth Street later this month is coming at an opportune time for Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, a Laurel-based nonprofit that provides homeless and low-income residents with food, shelter and emergency assistance.
The organization will temporarily occupy the current police building located off C Street in Municipal Square for about six months while crews complete a $420,000 renovation project at the LARS facility on Laurel Avenue.
Deputy City Administrator Martin Flemion said the city is charging only for the building's utilities.
LARS Director Nancy Graham said the renovation project will include a complete remodel to the building's interior and the addition of a third floor. Work will also be done to triple the size of the basement food pantry, she said.
Graham said she and her staff have spent the past year looking for a temporary place to house the organization's operations.
LARS looked at four different locations during that time, she said, but could not find a location that would service the agency's needs and fit into its budget.
Graham said the arrangement with the city will save LARS between $4,000 and $7,000 per month money that would have come out of the organization's savings and reserves. In addition, the agreement will enable LARS to stay close to its current building located about one-half a mile away.
"We're there to serve Laurel residents, so it makes sense for us to be in the center of it all," Graham said.
LARS assists approximately 1,500 individuals and families a year, according to its Web site. Graham said the organization plans to provide all of its usual services from the police station, including a computer lab that people use to find and apply for jobs.
Flemion said the city aims to have the space available for LARS by the end of the month.
"Recognizing that LARS does a lot for the community, the mayor and council worked out an agreement to allow [the move] to happen," he said.
Flemion said the city put the 22,000-square-foot police station up for sale about seven months ago, but has not received any offers on the property. The city's asking price is $2.5 million, he said.
City Councilwoman Donna Crary (Ward 2) said she believes the agreement with LARS is beneficial to the community both because of the services the organization provides and because the arrangement will provide a way for the building to be kept up and its utilities paid until a buyer is located.
"Having someone else paying for that is good," she said.
LARS plans to finish its renovation project in time for this year's holiday season.