The City of Lawton still plans to demolish the old police station. But not until mid-May.
City officials have known for years that the decades-old, two-story building with a basement would be demolished after the complex was completely empty. While people have tentatively discussed other potential uses for the building over the years, city administrators ultimately agreed with what city police said: the deteriorating structure is too badly damaged to make repairs economically feasible.
City police moved out of the building and into their new offices in the Lawton Public Safety Center in May 2021, with inmates from the city jail following later that summer after a fire in July 2021. City administrators have been working since then to set the process that will be used to raze the structure and restore the tract to an empty lot. City administrators said in February that city staff identified $290,000 in the police training division weapons account to cover the cost of the demolition project.
In mid-March, the City Council selected K&M Wrecking, Oklahoma City, to take down the building under a project bid at $389,681.50. The 90-day project was expected to be under way already, with work to include cutting, plugging and abandoning all utilities; demolishing the structure and removing the debris; and doing grade, drainage and sod work.
City Engineer Joe Painter said city officials had planned to launch the project in early April after crews completed their work to identify and cut off all utilities. He said utility work took longer than expected, and city officials had planned to give the firms additional time to complete their work, then “regroup to come up with a new schedule.” That new schedule had been expected to begin sometime this month, but Painter said city officials changed their mind after the organizers of the annual Arts for All Festival approached them.
That festival is held in Ned Shepler Park, the park area in and around Lawton Farmers Market, and because that site is directly west of the old police station, the area is heavily used as parking by those who visit the festival. Painter said festival organizers feared the demolition project would conflict with this year’s May 12-14 festival, so the city agreed the contractor would wait until May 15 to begin work.
Painter said while 90 days isn’t a long time to tear down the building, the project involves work beyond merely removing the visible structure.
“They have to remove everything above grade and three feet below grade,” he said.
The work also involves the station’s basement. That basement won’t be removed, the contractor will knock holes in the walls so the area won’t hold water, then fill it with select soil. Painter said that process is less expensive than complete removal of the basement, which would mean completely removing everything underground.
“The cost goes up substantially to remove all below-ground stuff,” he said, of a cost city engineers estimated earlier this year at $400,000 to $500,000.
The last step for the tract is leveling and sodding it.
“We will leave it a sodded field until we come up with an alternative use for it,” Painter said.