Tonganoxie City Council OKs police station feasibility study
In what Mayor Jason Ward said would move forward an issue the Tonganoxie City Council has considered this entire calendar year, it was agreed Monday to contract a study to look at the suitability of three sites to serve as a new police station.
The mayor cast the deciding vote for the study, which will also provide cost estimates for each site, after the council deadlocked 2-2 (Councilman Jim Truesdell was absent).
Andy Gilner and Chris Donnelly voted for the measure, while Bill Peak and Dennis Bixby voted against.
Police Chief Jeff Brandau requested the study that would have an architectural firm look at the structural soundness and suitability of two buildings the city has looked at in recent months as a possible new police station and the cost of building a new station on city-owned property at Third and Main streets. The existing buildings are:
• The 8,500-square-foot former Annie’s Country Jubilee at Fourth and Main streets.
• The 4,000-square-foot former video store at 302 Shoemaker Rd.
Brandau secured offers from two firms to do the feasibility study, and the council approved the lower offer from BG Architecture of $7,100. The study is expected to take from 60 to 90 days.
Approval of the study was the first council action on a new police station since it decided in September to end consideration of a combined police station/auxiliary fire station. But the council has met numerous times in executive session on the matter and appointed Bixby and Peak to a committee studying the issue.
In Brandau’s written report to the council on the request, he said the option of renovating and expanding the current council chamber and police station was rejected because it wouldn’t produce enough room and after an architect said a second floor couldn’t be added to either building.
Although the new station at Third and Main streets will be studied, there is little chance it would be built because of the cost of new construction. Bixby cited Brandau’s research of police station construction costs in the Kansas City metropolitan area, which found renovating an existing structure for a police station cost about $100 per square foot, compared to $232 for new construction.
BG Architects will work with the police department to determine what it will need in a new station and the buildings’ suitability to provide such needs. The firm will also look at the structural, mechanical and electrical status of the buildings. Finally, the firm will give cost estimates for each option.
The council split on whether the city should set a limit on how much should be spent on renovation. It was an issue Peak first brought to the table and Bixby later supported.
Bixby went further and suggested the city establish a cost ceiling at $500,000, which he said should provide suitable facilities for the department while still allowing the city to pursue other needs (with the extension of utilities to the County Road 1 industrial park being foremost).
Donnelly and Gilner disagreed. Donnelly said he had no idea at this time what the cost should be and that $500,000 might be too high.
In casting the deciding vote, Ward said he understood Bixby and Peak’s view but he wanted to see progress on the project.
“There’s no secret these guys need a new space,” he said when first asking for council comment. “We need answers, and we need answers that have some concrete meaning.”
Just before the council started discussion on the study, Tonganoxie realtor John Evans gave its members more to think about. He said the owners of the closed downtown post office have contacted him and are interested in getting rid of the building enough to have brought the asking price down to $100,000. The price was $180,000 when the post office moved in June 2010.
Evans asked if the city would be interested in the two-bath, 3,000-square-foot building at that price as either the new police station or as a new city hall — with the possibility the current police station and council chamber be made over to suitable police station. He would provide a loan to the city at a “very, very low rate of interest” to remodel it for either use, Evans said.
Also Monday, Bixby reported on a review by the firm Dry Basement on what was needed to stop flooding in the police department’s basement. Work, which would include improvements to the parking area to the west of the station to prevent water from seeping into the basement and alterations to the basement to allow water to drain to a sump pump, could make the basement dry, he said.
Bixby said more on the work and its cost would be available at the next council meeting.