After years and years of studies, citizen task force recommendations and broken promises to City of Batavia police officers, the Batavia City Council may be ready to pull the trigger on construction of a new $10.8 million police headquarters on the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street.
Lawmakers, during a Special Conference Meeting tonight at City Hall Council Board Room, listened to a presentation of a City of Batavia Police Station Feasibility Study – hearing from Kenneth Pearl, president of Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville; City Manager Rachael Tabelski, and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch on what it would take to finally move its law enforcement personnel out of the 160-year-old Brisbane Mansion at 10 W. Main St.
“This has been going on so long that now we’re spending $10 million for a building that if we would have built this six, eight, 10 years ago when we were talking about it, it would have been a few million – three, maybe four (million),” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski, a retired city police officer who is well aware of the poor conditions at the current station.
“Every time they (apparently referring to past City Councils) wanted to come up with a price, they would decide to spend tens of thousands of dollars on another study, and they would turn right around and try to say let’s merge, let’s eliminate, let’s become one police department. There wasn’t public support for that; there wasn’t availability to make that happen. It wasn’t feasible and it wasn’t cost-effective to do that.”
Jankowski said that the city abandoning its police force – putting that responsibility on Genesee County – would be unwise.
“I’ve lived in the city and I expect to have a policeman and a fireman nearby when I need one, if my house is on fire or if I’m in trouble … we need our police department,” he added.
Pearl reported that If City Council is indeed serious about building a new home for its police department, it is going to cost $10 million or more, depending on when they build due to the unstable construction climate.
His analysis indicates that the $10.8 million cost of a 19,000-square-foot building, complete with enclosed parking for more than 30 cars, would break down as follows:
- Batavia Police Department Building -- $6,270,000;
- Site Work – Building Project, $570,000;
- Site Work – Public Parking Modification, $660,000;
- Site Environmental Contingency -- $500,000;
- Contingency at 10 percent -- $800,000;
- Professional Fees – A/E/Survey/Geotech -- $880,000;
- Furniture, Fixtures, Equipment -- $650,000;
- Professional Fees -- $390,000;
- Project Expenses -- $80,000.
Should City Council decide to add a secure parking roof structure – a steel roof with no walls or heat -- that would add another $2.65 million to the price tag. Pearl’s report listed that feature as an alternative, along with the installment of an eight-inch water main to replace the current four-inch water main, and a Bank Street improvement public infrastructure program to include traffic calming and pedestrian safety enhancements.
As far as paying for the facility, Tabelski proposed a $10 million improvement serial bond with a 30-year term, noting that annual payments would range from $425,000 to $507,000 for principal and interest.
She said the city, by 2025, could absorb debt payments of $570,000, adding that in the next three years, debt from an energy lease, tandem axle municipal lease and the Enterprise Resource Planning software system will be off the books.
“While there will not be room for other borrowing in the general fund, by 2033, City Hall principal and interest payments will be reduced by $164,000 and by 2036, the entire debt will be paid on City Hall,” she said.
Tabelski said she will be looking for grants in an attempt to drop the amount needed to borrow under $10 million.
Heubusch advised Council of the conditions at the current police station, mentioning a 50-year-old boiler system, deteriorating walls, leaky roof, cramped quarters, lack of air conditioning and inconsistent heating.
In fact, the roof is in such disrepair that Council tonight passed a resolution to spend $100,000 from the municipality’s facility reserve fund to replace the flat portion of the 30-year old roof.
An analysis of that building showed that the flat roof portions above the rear vestibule and the rear addition require a full replacement. Currently, the roof is leaking into the conference room, locker rooms, detective offices and women’s and men’s bathrooms.
Pearl said he considered “four basic criteria” as he evaluated the possibility of a police station at Alva and Bank:
- “Could we save an adequate amount of public parking that could still be used by its neighboring businesses?”
- “Could we create enough secure parking within the wall or fence system for the police department itself?”
- “How much underground public infrastructure are we going to have to deal with (pipes, utilities under the parking lot)?”
- “And if we leave ourselves enough options after all that to go through a design and engineering process, would a viable project come out of it for the building itself?
Later on, he answered those questions affirmatively, stating that through substantial reconstruction about 115 public parking spots will remain in the lot with plenty of street parking available as well, and that there will be ample parking for police and other vehicles within the compound, next to the one-story facility.
He reported that basic elements of the project are a secure wall and gates, secure infrastructure (including an outdoor generator), storage space, open or covered parking and K-9 accommodation.
“Picture an L-shaped roof … what that allows us to do is create a public entry right here at Alva and Bank, which maximizes the public roadways,” he said. “Something that makes sense. You have the dedicated, primary entrance … you do not have that now.”
He said that police interaction with the community would be at the front of the building while operations and security would be placed toward the back.
Pearl’s report reveals the interior of the building will have a dedicated public entry space, front desk space, administrative offices, detective bureau, patrol offices and training rooms, emergency response team room, technical services areas (firearms, evidence storage, laboratory), accessory functions (locker rooms, break room, garage), interior infrastructure and community space.
Exterior spaces will include a public entry approach, flagpole, memorial area, landscaping, parking spots, generator, transformer, storage barn and K-9 lawn area.
Although he said the architectural and engineering process to get to this point has been complicated, the end result is that placing a building in the public parking lot “is a good option.”
“From a technical perspective, I’m very confident in saying that,” he said.
Pearl said construction could be complete by the end of 2023, but the current pricing would hold only if it went to bid within a year. He called the construction industry topsy-turvy right now, making it difficult to estimate costs.
To illustrate, he said the $8.8 million cost of just a 19,000-square-foot building (without fees and expenses) would have cost $5.7 million just three and a half years ago.
Going forward, Tabelski said the next steps would be putting out a request for proposal to architecture and engineering firms in September for design and surveying work, and then going back to City Council for contract approval/execution and a vote on final bond resolution around December.
City Council Member Al McGinnis was part of the City Police Task Force that worked on finding suitable locations for a new police headquarters about six years ago. He said that a lot of time and effort was spent by the committee and to see that nothing has changed is beyond disappointment.
"The fact that we have put our police through this for the past 20 years, 30 years is amazing," he said. "It violates just about every code you have for a police station. ... We talk, we talk, we talk and when we get done, we talk again. We kicked this can down the road. There's no more road and there's no more can. We have to do something."
Architectural sketches -- Top, the proposed City of Batavia Police Department headquarters at Alva Place and Bank Street (building in red with parking lot in purple); Bottom, parking lot showing 34 spaces for vehicles plus room for cars next to the building. A storage shed (orange) and K-9 area (green) are at left.