In the end, the prospect of leaving money on the table was too great for the Unified Government Economic Development Committee to pass up.
Some UG commissioners advocated waiting until the Nov. 1 strategic planning session to discuss the project as part of the question of what improvements need to be made to public safety facilities throughout the city.
However, the final consensus of the committee today was to move the police station project forward by issuing a request for action and notice of need, and bring it back to the Sept. 29 meeting. Several residents attended the meeting to support the project.
The South Patrol station would be built on the former Structural Steel site near 24th and Metropolitan Avenue in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan. Near it is a new Walmart Neighborhood Market that is scheduled to open later this week.
During the discussion of the project, UG Administrator Doug Bach said the construction timeline could be next spring through summer, after the project is approved by the full commission. Some of the financing details would be worked out as the project moves forward. Bonds would not be issued until next year.
On Aug. 14, the UG commissioners heard that the state had withdrawn from the proposal to locate the parole office from the state Department of Corrections at the public safety building in Argentine. The public works committee decided to move the project forward and look at a new funding formula for the project.
The state Department of Commerce, however, will still give a $400,000 grant to this project. Commissioner Ann Murguia said she met with the governor, who then met with the Commerce Department, to get the grant for the project.
Mike Tobin of the UG Public Works Department said that the estimated cost of the South Patrol police station, a 10,000-square-foot building, would be $2.25 million, or $225 per square foot. The size of the building has been reduced from the original proposal.
He also presented figures that showed the cost of a new tactical unit facility, at a site to be determined, would be $743,000, or $225 per square foot. It would be a 3,300 square-foot structure.
UG officials said there is about a $700,000 funding gap for the police station project, about $100,000 a year for seven years.
Currently, the South Patrol station and tactical unit are located in an old house and barn in the Argentine area, away from shopping district traffic.
UG staff and Interim Police Chief Ellen Hanson did not recommend that the tactical unit be located with the South Patrol station at the Structural Steel site, because of its location in a shopping area.
One of the important elements for the tactical unit is to show up somewhere and have an unanticipated arrival, Chief Hanson said. With a strip mall, “the element of surprise is compromised,” she said. Usually, there are too many people in a shopping area who would see the tactical unit leaving, some who might take a cell phone picture and post it on social media.
Commissioner Murguia, who originated this project, said she was concerned, but not negative, that the original $6 million project now has been reduced to $2 million. “I don’t want to do something halfway,” she said. But if officers in the field supported the changes to the plans for the station, she would be in favor of it, she said.
She told the other commissioners that she had toured the current Argentine police and tactical facilities and there were many needs, including restroom needs, electrical needs, no shower, no space for police dogs, and not enough temperature control.
Murguia talked about the advantage of locating the police station next to the Walmart in order to increase safety for that development and the people who go there.
In answer to a comment from Commissioner Gayle Townsend, Chief Hanson said about the need for the police station, “If you haven’t been to the South Patrol, please go by there.” If the building had been without asbestos, in good repair and adequate, this proposal would never have moved forward, Chief Hanson said. To her, this is about a safe and adequate work place for the people who work there, she said.
After a discussion, the committee decided to move the South Patrol part of the project forward, while placing the tactical unit needs into more of a regular budget discussion, to be discussed in the strategic planning session Nov. 1 with other projects.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan, although saying he wanted an overall strategic look at all public safety building needs, also said that he didn’t want to leave money on the table. He was referring to the Commerce Department’s $400,000 grant, and also to the tax increment financing for the project that he said would together be an opportunity to take one dollar and turn it into three dollars over time.