Consideration of new fire/police station tabled
Tonganoxie City Council members agreed Monday that the city would get a good deal on a building in the Urban Hess Industrial Park that could be remodeled into stations for the fire and police departments but put off acting on a purchase until June.
Last month, Tonganoxie Police Chief Jeff Brandau and Fire Chief Dave Bennett informed the council the former Right Choice building in the Urban Hess Industrial Park was available and could be remodeled to serve as the city’s new police headquarters and its second fire station.
Because of space limitations and security concerns at the current police station, Brandau received the council’s blessing earlier this year to look at vacant buildings in the city that could be remodeled for his department’s needs and those of other city services.
On Monday, the two chiefs told the council the negotiated sale price of the building was $582,000, or $46,000 cheaper than they reported two weeks earlier. They also said the city inspector had looked at the 10,800-square-foot building now owned by the First State Bank & Trust.
The cost of remodeling the building and site is estimated at $534,398 with $99,000 more pegged for design and contingency. The bottom line is the building could be purchased and remodeled to serve the two departments for an estimated $1.2 million. The city has $200,000, which was to be used to expand the Fourth Street fire station, in bond funds to apply to the remodeling cost.
By contrast, the city’s capital improvement plan lists a new fire station north of U.S. Highway 24-40 at an estimated cost of $1.3 million and construction of a new City Hall/Police Headquarters complex, estimated to cost $3 million.
Councilman Chris Donnelly said that the negotiated price was “a pretty darn good deal” on a building that would fill three city needs with the expansion of city offices into the current police station, but he was concerned about how it would be paid for.
City Clerk Kathy Bard said the city could issue bonds (cities are not required to have referendums for bonds issued to pay for police or fire stations) or notes with the 2014 retirement of an existing city debt and therefore not add to the mill levy.
Mayor Jason Ward argued the fire and police departments should be at the top of the city’s priorities.
“Part of our obligation is that we keep our police and fire protection as strong as possible,” he said. “As far as a ranking, it’s not a question to me. Both of these are core services.”
Although he didn’t disagree with that assessment, Councilman Dennis Bixby said the council had to weigh the request against others he hinted could be coming.
“I want to be the sugar daddy because I’m popular when I give you new things,” he said. “But I have to go into the coffee shop in the morning and they want to know what we are doing with their money.
“We have other opportunities you can’t be aware of at this time. I just can’t max out the city’s credit card at the time. I just can’t do it.”
Council members agreed to table the issue until the June 13 city council meeting. That will be after the council’s first meeting on the 2012 budget, which was scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.