On Jan. 26, a year after Waldo County Commissioner William Shorey shone a light on the county’s aging sheriff’s office, the commissioners voted to give the department a new $1 million building.

Commissioner Donald Berry said the expenditure, to be taken from six existing county accounts, would come at no cost to taxpayers.

For 18 years, the Sheriff’s Office, which today includes 18 employees, has occupied the 150-year-old former jailer’s house at 45 Congress St.

Last spring, Shorey, who was new on the commission, toured the sheriff’s office and decried the facility as being woefully outdated. During most of the next year, the consolidation of state and county correctional systems, manifesting in Belfast as the conversion of Waldo County Jail to the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, consumed much of the commissioners’ attention. But building a new sheriff’s office never entirely left the table.

Berry said the new facility would be 9,000 square feet, and would be attached perpendicular to a new 3,200-square-foot headquarters for the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency, forming an “L.” The EMA building is being funded by a $360,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, for which the county has already contributed $120,000 in matching funds.

By combining the buildings, Berry said, the two departments could share some resources, like conference rooms. The combined building would also save on infrastructure costs, he said.

With regard to combining the buildings, Waldo County EMA Director Dale Rowley said FEMA approved the idea, provided the federal money was used for the EMA portion of the building only. Rowley estimated the sheriff’s portion of the building would be closer to 6,000 square feet.

Berry said the commissioners and a committee devoted to the project considered a number of funding options before looking to the county’s reserve accounts. Half of the million-dollar price tag for the sheriff’s portion of the building will come from the county’s undesignated funds balance, or surplus.

The balance of the funding would come from emptying five reserve accounts, the largest portion of which — nearly $300,000 — from an account for “Future County Land [and] Buildings.” Another $113,000 will come from an account set up two years ago specifically for the purpose of funding a new sheriff’s office building. The remaining $130,000 will come from facilities, county planning and the sheriff’s reserve accounts.

“We don’t have to spend $50,000 on a referendum where we don’t know how it will go,” he said. “We don’t have to pay interest to anyone … there’s no payments, because it’s done.”

Berry added that the timing would likely work in the county’s favor, in terms of getting competitive construction bids.

The expense of the sheriff’s office will leave the county with just over $141,000 in its undesignated fund, and Berry said the account would need to be built up again over time.

This year the county made the last of its annual $65,000 payments toward the Regional Communications Center, built in 2001. Berry said a similar amount could be set aside each year to bolster the undesignated fund.

During a time when bad news is pervasive, Berry called the effort to improve working conditions for employees of the Sheriff’s Office a positive development. “I think this is one of the most exciting things that has happened here in the county in a long time,” he said.

Asked if he was excited about the prospect of a new building, Sheriff Scott Story said, “‘Ecstatic’ would be the proper word.”

Story said the commissioners notified him a week ago that they planned to approve the expenditure.

“The thought of being in something newer than 150 years old is kind of exciting for us,” he said.