Archive for Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tonganoxie City Council split on how to move forward on new police headquarters

January 10, 2012

After a long debate, the Tonganoxie City Council agreed Monday to request city financial adviser Tom Kaleko attend its Jan. 23 meeting to explain the consequences of added debt for a new police station and financing options for the facility.

The decision came after the council engaged in a chicken-and-egg discussion of whether it should first decide on what was needed in a new police station or the amount it was willing to spend on one. The council also debated whether to have architectural feasibility studies completed on three additional sites proposed for the headquarters not reviewed in a study released last week.

The $7,100 report from Wilson Estes Police Architects, a firm specializing in law enforcement facilities, studied three properties: the former Annie’s Country Jubilee, the closed video store at 302 Shoemaker Road and city-owned property at Third and Main streets. The firm reviewed the renovations needed and the cost to make the two existing buildings functional modern police headquarters while also providing the same information about a new building built on city-owned property.

The estimated costs associated with each site are:

• $830,950 for the 5,500-square-foot former video store.

• $1.264 million for the 8,500-square-foot Annie’s building.

• $1.294 million for a new station on city property at Third and Main streets.

Although the majority of the council argued a budget should be established before a site and design were chosen, there was no agreement on what it should be or the process needed to arrive at one.

Councilman Jim Truesdell was the only member opposed to letting dollars determine the council’s decision.

“I would like to figure out what we need, and then figure out a way to pay for it,” he said.

Councilman Bill Peak opposed that approach, saying it was the council’s job to establish a budget in the context of the city’s debt structure and impact on taxpayers.

Peak said more information was needed to arrive at that number and criticized the results of the feasibility study for lack of details and applying the same $150-per-square-foot construction cost to each of the three sites.

The only council member ready to name a budget figure was Dennis Bixby. He said he would support spending $750,000 for a new police station.

To get to that number, Police Chief Jeff Brandau should present a priority list of features for a new station with a third being absolutely necessary, a third being needed and a third being those that could be left to the future, Bixby said. The council would then work through the list to get to the $750,000 figure, he said.

Although he, too, argued for the need of establishing a budget, Councilman Chris Donnelly said the range was established with the three figures for the three structures studied and Bixby’s figure.

All were within the range of the city’s debt ceiling, Donnelly said, but added there would be consequences to any decision.

“I don’t know that I see any figure that scares me,” he said. “It all comes down to how much we are going to ask taxpayers to pay or what services we are going to cut.”

Mayor Jason Ward defended the feasibility study’s findings against Peak’s criticism. It did what was requested in defining needs, identifying what could be done at the three sites and establishing costs based on industry standards, he said.

But given the council’s continuing concerns, the mayor suggested Kaleko attend its next meeting to discuss funding options and the consequences of those costs on the city’s debt ceiling and taxpayers if a bond is used to pay for the new station (cities do not have to submit for voter approval bonds for police stations).

All council members agreed the three additional sites not reviewed in the feasibility study submitted for consideration before last month’s deadline should be studied out of fairness, but no final decision was made on that issue either.

The issue was one of timing. Donnelly said there would be no point of spending additional money on a site costing more to purchase and renovate than a budget the council established.

The three additional sites are the former post office building downtown, the former bank building across the street to the north that now is home to various businesses on the corner of Delaware and Fourth streets and the building on Laming Road in the Urban Hess Industrial Park owned by Steve LaForge.

The old post office is about 2,000 square feet smaller than the minimum 5,500 square feet the feasibility study determined the police department now needed. But it was being considered as a new city hall with the current city hall complex and police station renovated for the police department headquarters.

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