Ask Chelsea Mayor Jason Lindauer what’s wrong with the city’s current police station, and he’ll answer with a question: “How much time do you have?”

Ask police chief Ed Toth, and he’ll answer you in as much detail as you can stand to hear.

“We have no elevator, no sequestered rooms to interview victims, no facilities for processing evidence, and no holding facility at all,” says Toth. “What we have is a bench we lock them down on before we fingerprint and photograph them—and if they slipped their cuffs, they could have free rein of the whole building.”

The three-story building on East Middle Street was built in 1901, has housed the police since 1941, and has been recognized as deficient at least since the 1980s. Toth says the latest push to replace it “started approximately three years ago when we took city manager John Hanifan on a little tour of the building, and then we took a video tour and put that up on YouTube.” With Hanifan and Lindauer on board, plans for a new $2.5 million, 9,000-square-foot station at the corner of South Main and East Summit seemed about to become reality—until all of a sudden, it didn’t.

The plan met little initial opposition, but last year a citizens group launched a campaign to stop it, arguing that the building was too big and would cost too much. They persuaded the city planning commission to reject the city council’s plan.

Council could have disregarded the decision but chose instead to invite public comment. “We were fortunate enough to have citizens speak plain English to us at a series of town hall meetings and city council meetings,” says Lindauer, “and we heard what they wanted and didn’t want.”

Council shrank the building from 9,000 to 6,600 square feet by reducing the number of holding cells and eliminating a planned new council chamber. The cost didn’t shrink along with the buiding, though—according to Hanifan, it stayed at $2.5 million.

Nevertheless, Hanifan affirms “there will not be a millage increase to pay for the project.” Debt service on a $2.2 million bond has been included in the past three budgets. Hanifan expects the police station will be completed next summer and paid off in fifteen years.