Archive for Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Council ends quest for combo fire/police station

September 21, 2011

At a special meeting Monday, the Tonganoxie City Council pulled the plug on a possible combination police/fire station and agreed to seek individual solutions to both departments’ needs.

The four council members present voted unanimously Monday to appoint Councilmen Dennis Bixby and Bill Peak to a committee with Police Chief Jeff Brandau to develop further details and cost estimates of a stand-alone police station. It was also agreed Fire Chief Dave Bennett again should seek bids to upgrade the city’s Fourth Street fire station. The meeting was led by Councilman Bill Peak in the absence of Councilman Jim Truesdell and Mayor Jason Ward, who is expected to be in Tennessee for six weeks as his law firm represents a client in a court case.

Since January, the city has investigated solutions to space and security shortcomings at police headquarters. That led to discussion of renovating existing buildings in the city for a combined police station and second fire station.

The council approved $200,000 in bonding last year to enlarge the bay at the Fourth Street fire station and add more bathrooms and sleeping quarters. However in October 2010, bids for that work came back higher than the $200,000 estimate and the project has been on hold while the combination station concept was explored.

That review led to an offer for at least one building, the former Right Choice building in the Urban Hess Industrial Park. At an April meeting, the council received a report estimating the cost of upgrading the building for the two departments’ needs would be $633,228. The city was quoted a $582,000 price for the building.

Bennett told the council at that time, the cost of the building and its renovation estimate would be $900,000 less than the estimated cost of a fire station north of U.S. Highways 24-40, which is on the city’s capital improvement plan for 2016.

But Monday, the council agreed the combined station concept would be too expensive given the city’s existing debt and other needs. One of those needs identified last week is the limited upgrades and the scaled-back extension of utilities to the County Road 1 industrial park that would open it to one or two tenants. That project has an estimated $2 million price tag.

After Monday’s decisions were made, Councilman Chris Donnelly thanked Bennett and Brandau for their patience as the council has debated the issue the past nine months.

“I do want you to have the best product for you departments, but I continue to be concerned about the overall debt level for the city,” he said.

Councilman Dennis Bixby said he recently toured the police station and came away convinced there was an urgent need to address its limitations.

“We just need to do this,” he said. “As a council person, when you say yes to one thing, you have to say no to another thing. But a police station has to happen.”

Peak agreed public safety was the city’s top priority.

After the meeting, Donnelly said he thought the committee could find a good solution for the police department.

“I’m confident we will find a good long-term solution for the police station that won’t cost nearly as much as combo station,” he said.

In one final decision, the council agreed to Donnelly’s request that city financial adviser Tom Kaleko meet with the council at the soonest available date to discuss financing options for the extension of utilities to the CR1 industrial park.

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