City Awards $55.5M Contract For New Police Headquarters

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For at least seven years city government officials and public safety officers alike dreamed of a new police facility. It was put on the backburner in favor of the new T.C. Williams High School but on Tuesday, the City Council authorized City Manager Jim Hartmann to proceed with a project that could cost as much as $81.1 million once completed.

While the city budgeted for $81.1 million in its capital improvement plan, the headquarters is expected to cost about $3 million less than that, once completed. The city made the new police headquarters its highest capital project priority, going forward with it despite a lack of funding for various other projects during the recession.

According to a memo from Hartmann to Mayor Bill Euille and the City Council, building and owning the highly modernized structure instead of renting it could save taxpayers about $104 million over 40 years. The net present value cost of ownership was $42.4 million while leasing the property would have cost $146 million, according to the memo.

This was the only project we wanted to move forward as new capital spending, Councilman Justin Wilson said. By prioritizing this project and moving this project forward, were saving the taxpayers in excess of $100 million and I think thats exactly the reason that we prioritized this project.

The construction of the 124,000 square-foot, four-story facility is expected to begin in April. Covering 6.6 acres, the headquarters will house up to 502 staff members, with 50 visitor parking spaces and 500 staff spaces. The city and the developer, the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, are aiming for a LEED Gold Certification environmental sustainability ranking.

With a lagging economy and the citys dwindling financial ability to fund all of its desired projects in the coming years, money was the topic of conversation among the City Council and about 15 members of the city staff, including Police Chief David Baker. According to the contract, construction of the facility is projected to be almost $2 million less than the city allocated in its budget and the cost of moving furniture, fixture and equipment will cost $1 million less than originally expected, potentially leaving the city with an extra $3 million.

Given the work session we had on capital projects we have a lot of immediate needs and some of it pertains to our infrastructure some very basic kinds of things, Councilman Paul Smedberg said. $2.9 million or $3 million: thats a lot of projects, potentially. It just seems like an awful lot of money to put aside when we have immediate needs.

The extra money does not exist yet. The project is funded over three fiscal years but 2012 would be the first year the money would be available, and the revenue sources are not yet clear.
Also, unexpected construction costs could arise (as they did with the T.C. Williams project) as the project moves forward, so the city will keep the funds in reserve pending updates on the construction process.

We think were adequately funded on contingencies but weve all been down the road with these types of projects, said Ed Mandley, director of General Services. You can never anticipate everything. Mandley cited the Charles Houston Recreation Center where construction workers had to unearth a previously unknown foundation.

Hartmann noted that cost escalation was not a large risk but that the city would likely know within a year (such problems often have to deal with the structures foundation) whether the excess funds could be reallocated. About a year from now were going to know, he said. Coming out of the ground with these projects is complicated and I think thats going to be where we carry most of the risk.
Juantissa Hill was murdered last December inside her apartment on Van Dorn Street.

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