Jankowski: Council focusing on city-owned downtown property for new police facility
Batavia City Manager Martin Moore’s recommendation to City Council to allocate $175,000 into the Facility Reserve fund tonight has put the municipality’s intention to construct a new police station back into the public eye.
Moore, reporting at Council’s Business Meeting at City Hall, presented his proposal on where to distribute $1.3 million in unassigned fund balance, targeting eight different general reserve funds – Police Equipment, Fire Equipment, Public Works, Sidewalk, Compensated Absences, Parking Lot, Administrative and Facility.
Calling the practice of funding reserves “a critical part of sound financial and project planning,” Moore centered his reasoning on a simple premise – “the more money we have on hand, the less we have to borrow.”
In the case of the Facility Reserve fund, he called for $175,000 to be added to the current balance of $123,400 in anticipation of a new police facility at a cost of $6 to $8 million, to be paid for with a mix of reserves and municipal bonding.
“There are a number of steps involved … expenses leading up to construction,” he said.
Following the meeting, City Council President Eugene Jankowski was asked to provide an update on the status of the new police station. While not identifying the property specifically, he said Council is looking a parcel in the center of the City that already is owned by the City.
A reliable source indicated that the property is the city-owned parking lot bordering Alva Place and Bank Street, the current site of the Downtown Batavia Public Market.
Back in June 2015, the parking lot was the second choice of a task force of several City residents charged with exploring sites for the new police station; a privately owned parcel at 35 Swan St. was the first choice. Task force members, at the time, said that businesses in the vicinity of the Alva Place lot opposed the idea of putting police headquarters there.
Jankowski said Council is "working to make sure that property is going to fit our needs and not affect other properties in the area, so we’re doing a study on that – an internal study."
He added that the City’s debt situation is a major factor in the timeline.
“We’ve done research on our debt and we know that a lot of our debt is going to come free – we’re going to be paying off the City Hall, we’re going to be paying off the stadium, Muckdogs (Dwyer) Stadium,” he said.
“All those things are going to be off debt and that will allow us now to take on the new debt of the police department. So, as debt comes off, the police department will go on, and we’ll have pretty much an even balance. We’re not going to borrow more money while we still owe money.”
Jankowski said the process will take about two years.
“About that time when we’re able to borrow that money, we’ll be ready to go, (and) we can start that construction,” he said. “It’s going to take another 18 months to actually build the building, so we’re talking a minimum of maybe two to two and a half years from today before we start seeing an actual building in place – hopefully.”
He said he didn’t want to disclose the site because “it would probably get people concerned that don’t need to be because we don’t know if we’re even going to do that yet. But we have a good idea where we’d like to build.”
In the meantime, Moore said that part of the Facility Reserve money would be used to repair heating, wiring, plumbing and structural work at the current police station in the old City Hall to keep the current building usable for the next five years.
“We’re planning for the worse-case scenario,” Moore said.
Summarizing his recommendations for the other reserve funds:
-- Police Equipment: Add $20,000 to the balance of $12,761 for aid in the purchase and equipping of an armored vehicle for the emergency response team (to replace its current non-armored vehicle).
-- Fire Equipment: Add $35,000 to the balance of $190,180 to support the department’s fire apparatus replacement plan (which can cost up to $1 million).
-- Public Works: Add $220,000 to the balance of $194,013 to fund a $300,000 purchase for a heavy-duty snowplow and pickup truck with a plow and spreader.
-- Sidewalk: Add $50,000 to the balance of $1,869 to facilitate replacement of more than 500 linear feet of broken sidewalk during the 2020-21 fiscal year. Moore said City crews installed 24,000 feet of sidewalk this past year.
-- Compensated Absences: Add $400,000 to the balance of $18,567 due to an expected cost of $306,000 to compensate a large number of planned retirements this fiscal year and five more who become eligible through 2023.
-- Parking Lot: Add $100,000 to the balance of $46,721.97 as the City plans to spend $135,000 on parking lot improvements from 2020-22.
-- Administrative: Add $300,000 to the balance of $4,136 to address upgrades of the City’s information technology, telephone system, computer network distribution system and cyber security needs as well as management of the City’s software conversion and repayment of a short-term bond anticipation note (BAN).
Moore also said the City plans to increase its Workers’ Compensation self-insurance fund, with a goal of in excess of $1 million due to a deductible of $750,000 per incident.
City Council agreed to move Moore’s proposal to its Business Meeting on Oct. 15, where a vote on the resolution is expected.
The board also advanced to the Business Meeting the following resolutions:
-- Acceptance of a pair of grants to the fire department – one for $4,762 to purchase outside noise-cancelling wireless communication headsets and the other for $3,200 to support the child safety seat program.
-- Permanently keeping four 400-watt light fixtures, at an annual cost of $700, on Central Avenue, Watson Avenue and State Street – lights that originally were rated at 100 watts. DPW Director Matt Worth said that National Grid requires City Council action to make this happen, noting that the wattage was increased to deter criminal activity and with the safety of officers in mind.
-- Authorizing an easement for Charter/Time Warner to install underground communication cable in the Court Street parking lot, along the property line of businesses on Main Street that currently do not have high-speed communication access.
-- Amending the zoning code to include self-storage facilities in I-1 and I-2 zones and setting a public hearing for Nov. 12. This became an issue about eight months ago when Peter Yasses (54 Cedar St. LLC) requested to erect a self-storage business on Cedar Street, across from the DeWitt Recreation Area.
The City Planning & Development Committee and Genesee County Planning Department reviewed the request and recommend permitting public storage units/building in the Industrial zones with the issuance of a special use permit.
-- Authorization of a lease agreement with Batavia Players theatrical troupe for three parcels at the City Centre, an agreement that calls for the nonprofit organization to pay rent on a scale ranging from $1 per square foot to $4 per square foot over the life of the (renewable) five-year contract.
Batavia Players is looking to lease 11,000 square feet downtown, fulfilling plans outlined in the City’s 2012 Community Improvement Plan and 2017 Comprehensive Plan and, more recently, as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.
Council Member Robert Bialkowski said that the City would receive $187,884 in rent over the five years, but would lose $77,364 in mall merchant fees that would be passed on to taxpayers. The net amount coming into City coffers would be $110,520.
The lease calls for Batavia Players to pay for any improvements and utility bills and to purchase liability insurance.
Jankowski said he understood Bialkowski’s concerns over the loss of mall merchant fees but was in favor of the deal.
“As long as we are breaking above even,” he said. “In five years, we can always re-evaluate it.”
Council Member John Canale said he heard that Batavia Players may be interested in buying the property, a move that would be welcomed by City Council.
Photo at top: Council Member Robert Bialkowski reads a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 6-12) as members of the City Fire Department look on. Chief Stefano Napolitano, in white shirt at left, said he is "blessed to have an amazing group of people" in the department and thanked the City water, police, and building codes employees for the work they do in supporting the firefighters. Photo by Mike Pettinella.