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Police Facility

June 12, 2018 - 1:12pm

For at least five years the City of Batavia has been trying to figure out what to do about its aging, deteriorating, ill-suited police headquarters and Monday night the topic was once again on the City Council agenda.

Consultant John Brice, of Geddis Architects, presented the council with three broad options, with price tags in excess of $7 million up to nearly $10 million, and each with their own challenges and pitfalls, not the least of which is the time it will take to complete whichever option is chosen.

Option 1: Remodel the existing headquarters with a public entrance in the back, using all existing floors, without too many significant changes to the floor plan.

Option 2: Remodel the existing headquarters with a public entrance in the front, all police operations confined to the basement and the first floor, the addition of an enclosed sally port and separate entrance in the back of the building for police officers and detained subjects.

Option 3: Build a new police headquarters on a parcel of land yet to be determined.

In 2014, the City formed a task force to study options for a new police headquarters. The task force considered options for remodeling the current location and reviewed a half dozen parcels in the city for a possible new building. The task force favored a location on Swan Street but the city was apparently unable to acquire the property.

The issue languished until now. 

The two remodeling options presented last night were revised from proposals presented in 2014 and the new building plan was a generic layout for a single-story building that would likely change based on the configuration of any parcel of land eventually selected for the building.

Both council members Kathy Briggs and Patti Pacino said it's time to stop stalling, so they favored Option 2 as the seemingly most expedient while also most completely addressing problems with the current headquarters.

"We need to stop kicking the can down the road," Pacino said.

"That's right," Briggs said.

She expressed concern that while it might be nice to build new, the city has already been down the path of trying to find an appropriate location and didn't really find a suitable spot.

Eugene Jankowski, council president, said he was open to Option 2 but favored option 3, building new.

"The first option doesn't do much," Jankowski said. "It might save us a little money but it doesn't solve any issues."

The current police headquarters was built 150 years ago as a mansion for one of Batavia's well-to-do families, the Brisbanes (James Brisbane was one of the founders of Batavia. His son, Albert Brisbane, was a nationally known utopian in the 19th century, and one of his sons, Arthur Brisbane (who married a Cary, another of Batavia's early wealthy families) went on to become one of the nation's most famous newspaper editors, working for William Randolph Hearst in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is buried in Batavia.)

The Brisbane mansion eventually became City Hall. When City Centre was built, Batavia PD became sole occupants of the building.

Brice outlined the problems with the Brisbane Mansion: The building's heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical are out of date and in need of replacement; its public entrance is up a flight of stairs and doesn't offer good visibility for staff inside; the entrance is less than ideally secure because there is no separate entrance for officers and any detainees they bring in; the building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"As soon as you touch any of the major systems you must make the building ADA compliant," Brice said. "That's New York State law."

Option 1 doesn't address all those issues. While it would upgrade HVAC, electrical and plumbing, and provide a more visible public entrance but the entrance would still be shared by the general public, police, and criminal suspects. It doesn't provide separate parking for police vehicles and public vehicles. It addresses ADA issues but the elevator would need to do more than just stop on three different floors; it would need to be able to stop on the levels in between floors (the second floor is really five different levels).

The total estimated cost for Option 1 is $6.9 million.

Option 2 puts the public entrance at the front of the building and adds a sally port at the back for safe prisoner transport and storage of the department's emergency response vehicle. It puts all police operations in the basement and on the first floor and leaves the second floor vacant (though the new elevator would still go to the second floor). It addresses many of the safety issues and upgrade issues with the building, but it's still a 150-year-old building originally built as a residence.

The estimated cost is more than $9 million.

Option 3 addresses all of the logistical and safety issues that can't be fixed with a remodel of the existing building but the biggest issue is: where to put it?

The estimated cost is close to $10 million.

"The facility we’re in now is 150 years old," said Chief Shawn Heubusch. "It’s still going to be 150 years old no matter what we do to it. It was not purpose-built as a police station or as a government facility. It’s purpose-built as a residence. It’s been modified over the years but a new build covers all of the requirements we have."

February 23, 2016 - 4:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Police Facility.

Via our news partner, WBTA:

The Batavia City Council has unanimously agreed, at least for the moment, to build a new police station on Swan Street.

In a straw poll, one without any binding authority, the council agreed to pursue the new facility on the site of the former Wiard Plow Company.
City Council President Eugene Jankowski doesn’t want to give away the city’s bargaining chip, since the Swan Street site is privately owned, and left open the possibility that the city could still choose a different site.

The working price tag to buy and prepare the land, and build the building, has been pegged at $10 million.

City Council also held a public hearing into next year’s city budget. Only two people spoke at the hearing: perennial critics John Roche and Rich Richmond.
Final action of the budget, which carries a tax rate increase of .08 percent, must be taken before April 1st, the start of the city’s fiscal year.

January 26, 2016 - 8:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Police Facility, batavia.

Two months ago, members of the City Council were unanimous in their support of proceeding with a study of a potential merger between the city's police force and the Sheriff's Office.

Monday night, support for such a study dwindled to three, Adam Tabelski (who wasn't on the council in November), Brooks Hawley and John Canale.

Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian opened the discussion with her change of heart. Christian said she heard from at least 11 of her constituents who support keeping a city police force and she also spoke with officers about how police protection might decline following a merger.

"I want to keep our police department," Christian said. "Crime is going up and there's no doubt drugs are running rampant."

Christian, like several other council members, was also scared off the potential $80,000 to $100,000 cost of a merger feasibility study.

"I don't want a study," Christian said. "It's a waste of money."

Canale tried to argue that most of that expense would be covered by state grants and the city, county and Village of Le Roy, would likely share only 10 percent of that expense.

Canale said he thinks that small expense to the city is a good investment since it could lead to greater cost savings down the road.

Council President Eugene Jankowski pointed out that even if the bulk of the cost is covered by a grant, a grant is still taxpayer money.

For most of 2015, the city was moving toward a proposal to build a new police station, replacing the cramped and dilapidated building the police currently call home, with a police facilities task force making a recommendation for a new station on vacant property on Swan Street.

A new station could cost $10 million.

Once the council received the recommendation, there was board support for the proposal and calls not to "kick the can down the road" any further on the need to provide police with an appropriate and modern facility.

Then at a meeting in November, at least a half dozen members of the local Libertarian Party showed up at a council meeting and blasted the proposal, especially without first studying the idea of eliminating the police department and going to a countywide agency.

Unanimously, the council agreed to explore the idea and instructed a committee to open discussions with the county.

Christian and Kathy Briggs both said they heard after that meeting from their constituents that they didn't want to get rid of the police department.

"In the 5th Ward, when there's a problem, the police are there immediately," Briggs said. "I like that we have a quick police response and I don't want to lose it."

Christian said she feared calling the police only to be told by dispatchers that all of the officers are out on Creek Road dealing with a minor incident and it will take 15 minutes for a patrol to reach her house.

Jankowski pointed out that in a merged department, there are other communities in the county that feel they don't currently have enough police protection and some resources earmarked for the city could wind up in villages and towns.

While at the November meeting Jankowski, a former city police lieutenant, went along with the city request, he also argued for many of the benefits of a local police department and noted many of the cost savings already taking place through multiple shared services.

Monday, he recalled that the last time there was going to be "just a study" of merged services, the city wound up losing its own emergency dispatchers.

The council will take up the issue of a new police facility and how to move forward at its next conference meeting in February.

November 24, 2015 - 8:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Police Facility.

councilnov232015.jpg

A month ago, council members, while discussing the proposed new police station, said the last thing they wanted to do was "kick the can down the road."

Monday, after hearing from a half dozen public speakers who had nothing good to say about the proposal, the sound of tin rattling on pavement could be heard quite distinctly in City Hall.

"I'm suggesting that we put a task force together to see if it is possible for a merger or consolidation between the police department and the sheriff's," said Council President Brooks Hawley. "Before we can move forward with spending any money at all, we need to do our due diligence before we spend taxpayers' money."

We've been down this road before, and it got the city nowhere, said Councilman Eugene Jankowski, a former Batavia police officer.

"I've been involved in several projects where the Police Department and Sheriff's Office were going to merge and unfortunately for the Sheriff, the city caused so many delays that the Sheriff was delayed in building (a new building) at least five years, maybe longer," Jankowski said. "Every time the project came up, someone suggested merger and that would scare everyone off, things would go away. To get things done, the Sheriff, who was waiting and waiting, finally out of frustration, he couldn't wait any longer, he had his new building built. 

"There were many opportunities for this to happen and it was passed by for whatever reason," Jankowski added.

Then Jankowski endorsed the idea of a feasibility study being completed on a possible merger of departments.

Most of the anti-police-station speakers called for a merger or elimination of the city police force.  

"Spending $10 to $14 million on a new police station is an awful waste of money," said Peter Garlock, who served on the police facilities task force that met more than a dozen times over a seven-month period and came up with the recommendation for a new police station on Swan Street.

Dave Olsen, president of the Genesee County Libertarian Party (top photo), suggested the city's law enforcement needs could be met through private security, volunteers in homeowners and business associations and citizens with the legal right to carry firearms.

"More government means more taxation and it makes citizens less free by taking a portion of their income and choice away," Olsen said.

While under current circumstances (which delays could change), it's likely the new police station could be built without the city increasing its current debt load or raising taxes (see the financing memo in the council's Oct. 26 agenda (pdf), several speakers objected to the proposal based on assumptions of increased debt and higher taxes.

  • Bob Bialkowski: "Batavia is a community of low, low middle-income families. We do not want to be saddled with any more debt."
  • Jim Rosenbeck: "We should also ask how building a new police station impacts the taxes on our aging and declining population? What are the tax implications for our local downtown businesses, some of which are struggling?"
  • Rosenbeck: "I sympathize with the police who find their current home is aging and deteriorating. We would all probably like a new home, but often we can't afford it. We have to live within our means. We can't get everything on our wish list. I ask that you be responsible with our tax dollars."
  • Daniel DelPlato: "Taxes, you've got to keep them down. There are people on fixed incomes. We all know the prices of everything is going up. You've got to think about the senior citizens, even though there are not a lot of them here, you've got to represent them, too."

In contrast, David Lone (bottom photo), who served on the police facilities task force, said the council should consider the cost of kicking the can down the road.

"Interest on borrowing rates are right now at historic lows," Lone said. "That's one factor the council should take into consideration. If the decision is postponed for five or 10 years, interest rates may go up  two, three, four times what they are now. On a 20-year bond, you're talking of adding hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to the whole project by not taking full advantage of these historic low rates that are available."

While the council waits on a study -- which it didn't even explicitly authorize Monday night -- city staff is unable to move forward on the project. Purchase of the land can't be negotiated, which leaves it vulnerable to purchase by a commercial interest; nor can environmental studies be conducted to ensure it should be purchased or what it might cost to remediate; design work can't begin and financing can't get locked in. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is looking at the first interest rate hike in nearly a decade when it meets in December.

Not all the speakers were against building a new police station on Swan Street. Local businesswoman Diane Kastenbaum endorsed the idea.

"We do need a new station and the time to move on  it is now," said Kastenbaum, who said she's recently added 10 employees to her company's workforce and plans to hire more. "Our population is not in decline. I see signs of hope, signs of growth, and I think there will be more of a demand for a state-of-the-art police station in our community."

There was some talk of exploring shared services with the Sheriff's Office to eliminate duplicate work and reduce costs and perhaps eliminate the need for a new police station.

Rosenbeck noted that city property owners pay for both the Batavia PD, through city taxes, and the Sheriff's Office, through county taxes.

"One good question we should be asking -- what are we currently getting from the county in return for our funding the city police and the county sheriff's services," Rosenbeck said. "Are there ways we can get greater value from a city-county partnership, with smart sharing of costs, services and possible facilities?"

Jankowski had the answer:

  • The city's inmates are housed in the county's jail at no charge to the city;
  • Arrestees are photographed and booked by jail staff, so city patrols get back on the road quicker;
  • Deputies transport the city's inmates to and from the courthouse at no charge to the city;
  • The Sheriff's Office handles all dispatch for police, fire and DPW, saving the city $100,000 a year, as well as providing the radio system and patrol computer system along with technical support;
  • Deputies provide security for City Court;
  • The county pays for all medical treatment for the city's inmates.

In addition, Jankowski said, the Sheriff is very generous with Homeland Security grants. The Sheriff's Office purchased the city's ERT vehicle, trains the ERT team, provides it with body armor and provides a third of the personnel in the ERT team. The Sheriff's Office also manages the drug task force.

"How much more can we dump on the Sheriff?" Jankowski said. "He's pretty much already doing everything for us except patrol. At some point, the city has to take responsibility and patrol it's own backyard."

John Roach noted that any discussion of shared services really just means elimination of the police department, and that's the central question the council needs to answer. Is it willing to eliminate Batavia PD? If not, then move on and select Swan Street for the new police station.

It's a better option, he said, than trying to once again renovate the Brisbane Mansion.

"Building new is cheaper," he said.

Councilwoman Patti Pacino is in favor of Swan Street, but said she is willing to go along with a feasibility study if it doesn't cost a lot of money.

"I don't want a study that's just another study that gives us an answer," Pacino said. "If we do a study, fine, but I don't want to pay $30,000 for it. I don't want someone else to come in and look at it. People of Batavia know more about what we want in Batavia than anybody we could get to come in and do a study."

Several council members suggested that the county should pay half the cost of a feasability study.

Reached today, County Manager Jay Gsell said the county would be happy to the help the city in a grant application to the state to fund a study, but the county's budget for 2016 is set.

"I haven't had a discussion with Jason yet about how far they would want to go in terms of further discussion before they start looking at just building a separate and discreet police facility," Gsell said. "The county is open and amenable to having further dialogue and getting real serious about what the future holds for law enforcement in Genesee County. Certainly, we can go to the state to get the funding for further analysis."

Gsell noted, the city and county have been down this road before. There was talk of moving both departments into what is now the court facility, with a third and fourth floor atop the structure we know now, and when the Sheriff's Office built its new facility on Park Road. He understands, he said, the council's desire to do the same due diligence now.

"Whenever you get ready to spend between $10 to $17 million, you don't do that based on thinking not everything has been examined fully, and I think that's all they're looking at doing right now," Gsell said.

Merging departments is a complex consideration said Sheriff Gary Maha. A fully funded study would be necessary to determine potential cost savings, if any, and the impact on both departments.

There's certainly high near-term expense for new uniforms, car decals, equipment and training, Maha said.

Such a feasibility study was undertaken for Jamestown PD and the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office in 2009, and that potential merger is still pending, Maha noted (The state issued a $400,000 grant for the study.)

"It's not a simple issue, but worth looking at if that's want they want to do," Maha said.

councilnov232015-2.jpg

October 27, 2015 - 5:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Police Facility, batavia.

To hear council members describe it, the feedback they're getting from constituents on the proposed new police station on South Swan Street is akin to the decibel level in a library reading room. 

In other words, if the public has anything to say about it, they're not saying it to members of the Batavia City Council.

Which is why the council is going to invite the public to a meeting Nov. 23 where feedback and input will be invited on the proposed $10-million investment in a new building to house police officers and the activities that support their public safety role.

"If only two or three people show up, that also sends a message," said Councilman Eugene Jankowski. "If people are upset, they'll probably show up. If they don't show up, that's almost acceptance. There is a thought, silence is acceptance. If they remain silent and see that path we're going (on), I only have to assume that they're happy about it."

The proposal for the location of a new police station came from a council-appointed task force that studied a dozen or so options, gathered financial data, considered the topography, traffic patterns, security and proximity to city activity before arriving at the plot of land on South Swan where the Wiard Plow Factory once stood as the best available location.

The entire process and final selection has been broadly publicized in local media, but apparently, to council members, that hasn't prompted a lot of public feedback.

Jankowski first raised the concern during Monday's meeting that before spending $10 million there should be some sort of process for the public to weigh in on the decision, and since it isn't the kind of matter that goes to a public vote, the council unanimously backed the idea of a public meeting.

City Manager said the meeting will be publicized just as if it is an official public hearing, though it isn't that, either.  

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs argued in favor of moving the process forward as quickly as possible rather than, once again, "kicking the can down the road."

"It's time to put up or shut up," Briggs said.

"Then I'll shut up," snapped Councilwoman Rosemary Christian.

Christian expressed reservations about backing a new police station because paying for the bond might require an extra 2-cents per thousand in property tax and Christian doesn't believe Batavia residents can handle any further taxation.

She also expressed concern about potential runaway costs.

"What if we get into this and it costs $20 million instead of $10 million?" Christian asked.

Molino explained that the bulk of the costs -- material and labor -- is pretty easy to calculate before construction starts, so it's hard to fathom that kind of runaway expenditure. The one unknown expense for the South Swan property is environmental cleanup, but there will be a detailed assessment done before the city acquires the property, so that cost should be known before the project receives final approval.

How the project will be paid for remains an open question. The council is eager for Molino to explore grant options, though grant opportunities are limited for this sort of project. To the degree bonds are required, they will be issued at a time when existing bonds are being paid down and paid off, freeing up cash flow to help finance this project. Molino also floated the idea of fashioning a unique arrangement that would involve a private developer owning the property and the building and leasing it to the city, which could save taxpayer money, avoid any interest payments and give the city the option to buy the property at the end of a 30-year term, or build a new station if needed.

Some council members expressed concern that a lease could saddle a future council with a tough decision about how to deal with a police station situation.

Whatever options the council should consider, Jankowski said he would like to hear what city residents think, and he hopes some voices will be heard at the Monday, Nov. 23, meeting.

"If they want us to move in a certain direction, like, say, merging with the Sheriff's Department, the public needs to express that opinion now and then that's something we will explore," Jankowski said. "Rignt now, I'm hearing silence. We're moving toward a new building. I'm hearing silence, so I would assume we're going in the right direction."

September 29, 2015 - 9:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Police Facility, batavia, Batavia PD.

There was very little disagreement among council members Monday night when it came to a decision on what to do in regards to a future new police headquarters, but it took a lot of chatter to reach that conclusion.

After about 15 minutes of council members saying much the same thing many times over, the Batavia City Council, without a vote, but by consensus, agreed that the city should move forward with a task force recommendation to select Swan Street as the location for the proposed station.

The big question is how to pay for it, and council agreed to ask city staff to prepare a report on funding options and anticipated costs.

"We have a recommendation," said Councilwoman Kathy Briggs to open to the discussion. "The volunteers on the task force did all this work and so, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to act on this? I think it's time to step up to the plate. The task force gave us all the information, all the facts and figures, so I say, let's move forward with the recommendation and direct the administration to see what kind of grants are out there."

Councilwoman Rosemary Christian said she's received a few calls on the topic from residents worried about how the city is going to pay for it, so she wants to know how the city is going to pay for it. Are taxes going to be raised?

Councilman Kris Doeringer followed: "I move we come to a consensus to follow the recommendation with Swan Street and then direct the administration to come up with a report on how we're going to pay for it ... I think we all pretty much agree to follow the task force's recommendation, so, OK, yes, let's get that on the record and then move ahead and see how we're going to pay for it."

Briggs agreed with Doeringer.

Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone pointed out that options for paying for the station were pretty much spelled out in the task force's report.

"A lot of work has been done already on how we're going to pay for it," Cipollone said. "I think if you follow the report, the plan is we're going to pay down a lot of current debt and cycle that into paying for debt for the new facility. If we can get grants, so much the better, but quite a bit of work has gone into looking at this, and agree or disagree, here's how we're going to pay for it."

Christian: "I agree on the site. I do realize and appreciate that a lot of work went into this, but I'm still up in the air on how we're going to afford this."

Councilman Eugene Jankowski wondered if, given the amount of money involved, "if nine people should decide this." He wondered if the expenditure, especially if loans are involved, shouldn't go to a vote.

There was no answer to that question.

Councilman John Canale said he's heard from constituents who say other municipalities have built new police stations for a lot less than the estimates to build one in Batavia. He suggested those cities be researched and perhaps council members should visit those police stations and see if something similar would be suitable for Batavia.

"There may be some leg work that needs to be done here," Canale said.

September 11, 2015 - 5:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Police Facility.

With news that the state is going to once again try to auction off its one-time armory on State Street, there's been some chatter around town about the city buying the building and converting it into the new police headquarters.

After all, it only costs $60,000.

First off, it's going up for auction, and $60K is just the ante. It will likely go for considerably more than $60,000. City Manager Jason Molino said judging by the number of calls the city has been getting with questions about zoning for the property, there is quite a bit of interest in it.

But even if the city could get it at a reasonable price, converting it into a police station would still cost millions.

"It's not a turnkey building by any means," Molino said.

To make it suitable for police needs there would need to be substantial modifications, a lot of demolition, environmental abatement and retrofitting.

"It's not just a matter of repainting a few walls and moving in," Molino said.

The building was considered for a possible location early in the process, Molino said. The original committee of city staff and consultants toured the building and the city even asked the state to hold off on selling it until the city could complete its study.

The state didn't wait. The building was sold at auction, but that deal eventually fell through.

Even with a potential private owner to deal with, the task force that eventually came up with the Swan Street recommendation gave brief consideration to the armory, but rejected the idea almost as quickly.

Besides the cost, the location is essentially a residential area and the property has only one point of entry and exit. With State Street being a main thoroughfare during the school year, the property would be hard to enter or exit quickly twice a day -- morning and afternoon -- for nearly 10 months out of the year.

The City Council will be asked to consider a plan to build a police station from the ground up on Swan Street. That public discussion among council members has yet to take place.

August 11, 2015 - 11:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Police Facility, batavia, Batavia PD.

The future home of the Batavia Police Department is now in the hands of nine City Council members after Marc Staley, chairman of the Police Facilities Task Force, delivered his committee's report at Monday night's meeting.

Council members congratulated Staley and his task force on their effort and a couple of members thanked him for delivering a clear report that focuses on a single recommendation.

"Thanks to the task force for giving us a recommendation for the best site," said Councilwoman Patti Pacino. "That will make our job easier."

The task force recommended a location on Swan Street, the site of the former Wiard Plow factory, which is currently owned by Tom Mancuso.

It will be up to the council to decide whether to make a purchase offer on the property, likely contingent on environmental clean-up studies and remediation, and whether to seek funding, through a bond and grants, to build a new facility at that location.

None of the council members expressed any opinion either way on whether they will support the proposal.

If they don't, it leaves Batavia PD housed in a former mansion that is more than 150 years old, ill-suited to modern police work, misconfigured for optimal officer safety and it needs substantial cosmetic, mechanical and structural repairs and upgrades.

Staley noted that as the task force's work came to a close, several people in the community complained that the task force didn't consider consolidating law enforcement work with the Sheriff's Office.

"I just want to make one minor editorial comment, if I could," Staley said at the end of his presentation. "You did not ask us 'Should we merge with the Sheriff?' You did not ask us about shared resources. You did not ask us to deal with numbers as far as a downside without this process. You simply said 'Something needs to be done about the police facility. Should we stay? Should we go?' -- so we went out into the community and did our own research and the Swan Street location made the most sense."

The task force worked for more than 55 hours over several months on the project. They considered at least eight possible locations for the facility, including two that were not on the original list drawn up by city staff.

Swan Street, which was still tied up at the time in a legal battle over code violations, wasn't on that list.

Committee members drove around Batavia looking at all of the alternatives, which is how Swan Street and a location at Alva and Bank, ultimately rejected, came under consideration. The committee then whittled the list down to three finalists -- the Salvation Army location on Jackson Street, Alva Place and Swan Street -- and made site visits.

Jackson Street was eliminated when more information came forth about the financial impact of the property being in a flood zone. Alva lost out to Swan largely over concerns about the impact on surrounding businesses and the potential security liability of the location as well as traffic concerns for ingress and egress.

All but one task force member supported Swan Street in the final decision. The site is seen as centrally located with easy access in an area brimming with development potential, but currently underused and not generating significant tax revenue for the city. The large lot also gives the city options for expansion, if needed, and could be a boon for future redevelopment at the Harvester Center.

The council will take up the discussion of the report at a future conference meeting.

Previous coverage: Police Facility.

July 9, 2015 - 3:37pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, Police Facility.

The Police Facility Task Force recommends the 35 Swan St. site as the most viable location for the new police station.

The task force voted 6 to 1 in favor of the site at its final meeting Tuesday night. The next step is to bring the recommendation to City Council.

"Really what we felt in terms of the Swan Street location is we think financially it was the second-cheapest option," Chariman Marc Staley said. "The location is excellent and the property has already been demolished."

The industrial site is located near Main Street and Ellicott Street and the cost of the project is estimated at $12 million. The large site opens up the opportunity for expansion of the police station if it is needed in the future. 

Some environmental cleanup was done by the owner of the site. If City Council moves forward with the recommendation, environmental studies will be conducted before any purchase.

The majority of the task force has been favoring the location for a couple months now.

Member Peter Garlock's vote against the location came as a shock to the task force. Garlock sent a two-page letter outlining his opposition to build a new police station a few hours before the final meeting -- opposition he never mentioned before in prior meetings, Staley said. In the letter, Garlock stated the current police station should be renovated and shared services with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office should be considered.

The task force has been meeting since December analyzing approximately a dozen sites. After walking all the sites, conducting studies and having numerous architectural drawings done, Staley feels comfortable with the recommendation. The task force has also been working closely with Chief Shawn Heubusch who supports the site.

"Now the decision is whether to invest in the community or not," Staley said. "If we go ahead and build the new police station, I think it's a spot that will hold our police here in the city for the next 75 to 100 years."

On Aug. 10, the task force will present its recommendation in a written final report to the City Council. 

June 24, 2015 - 1:24pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, Police Facility.

Community members provided their input on the final sites selected for the new location of the City's police station at the Police Facility Task Force's public meeting Tuesday night.

Businessman Vito Gautieri favored the Alva Place parking lot location, one of the final sites for the new police station.

"Alva can be made into a beautiful site," Gautieri said. "You could combine that site with the mall site. Alva should be your first consideration because you own it."

In response to Gautieri, Marc Staley, chairperson of the Task Force, said you have to consider the businesses that share the lot and the disruption the police station may cause. If the police station was built there, Staley feared businesses would relocate. 

Rose Mary Christian, city council member, preferred the 35 Swan St. location, the other final site for the new police station. Christian stated the site would be the best location because it's larger and has the possibility of commercial development.

Other community members had concerns not directly related to the two final sites.

Charles Ruffino, former county legislature member, expressed his concern for the future of the new police station as a whole and its cost effectiveness. Ruffino believed the task force should consider a location where the City of Batavia Police Department could share services with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. 

"If you wanted a police station stand-alone, you could design a building adjacent, nearby or connected in some way with the County Sheriff," Ruffino said. "If in the future you want to have a combined public safety type of operation that serves the whole county, then you're in business. However, if you build something far away and it costs $12 to $14 million then you're out of luck."

Diane Kastenbaum, vice president of the Genesee County Landmark Society, was interested in the future of the current police station. Kastenbaum wanted to make sure the facility wouldn't be destroyed if it was sold. In response, the Task force agreed to include her concern when they submit their recommendation to City Council.

The Task Force, composed of eight committee members, has been meeting monthly since December to evaluate potential sites for the new police station. The committee developed a set of criteria to rank each site. Some of the criteria included if the location provided good proximity to Downtown, adequate parking and sufficient security for police vehicles. They started out analyzing 12 possible locations and have narrowed it down to Alva Place and Swan Street. 

The cost for a new station is approximately $10 to $12 million. Due to the poor condition of the current station, it would cost less money to build a new station than to renovate the current one.

Moving forward, the Task Force will meet one more time before submitting its recommendation for the new police station site to City Council.

June 5, 2015 - 1:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Police Facility.

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The way Ron Panek sees it, there's no way the city should build a police station at the Salvation Army location on Jackson Street.

Panek is Batavia's certified floodplain manager, trained by FEMA in Washington, D.C., on issues related to floodplains in municipal areas.

The Police Facilities Task Force, which had winnowed possible locations for a new police HQ down to three locations, including Jackson Street, heard from Panek and Assistant City Manager Gretch Difante during a meeting Thursday evening.

"As floodplain manager, I have to strongly discourage (the Jackson Street location)," Panek said. "I can't tell you, you know, you can't do this, but common sense should tell you that in a catastrophic event, we don't want our critical response facility in a floodplain."

Panek said he decided to bring his concerns to the assistant city manager and city manager after he saw Jackson Street was still under consideration by the committee after eliminating several other proposed locations.

The task force considered what Panek and Difante had to say and as a matter of consensus, agreed to drop the Salvation Army location from consideration.

It's not just the obvious problem of the facility becoming potentially unusable during a flood emergency that concerned task force members, it's also what such a building decision could do to the price of flood insurance for city residents.

There are two programs that impact local insurance rates and evaluators for both programs would take a dim view of the city building critical response facility in a floodplain.

Both Difante and Panek hedged on any sort of guarantee that rates would go up, but certainly left the impression that would be the expected outcome.

The issue is important to all residents of the city, Difante said.

"There are 1,050 properties in the special flood-hazard area," Difante said. "Without some kind of relief, these individuals can't sell their homes. Some have had to abandon properties, or they can't afford repairs or they wind up in a short sale for a loss. Do we really believe that if 1,050 properties suffer we don't all suffer? It affects the whole city."

There are residents, City Manager Jason Molino said, paying more than $1,000 a year in flood insurance, which is higher than their city taxes. He said taking two houses, one in a floodplain and one not, and doing a comparison on lot size, building size and year built, a house in the flood zone is assessed at about 15 percent less than a house in a flood area.

The city has been a part of the National Flood Insurance Program since 1977. The current city fire station and Falleti Ice Arena complex was build with federal grants prior to 1977. If the city was seeking similar funding today, there's no way the government would fund that facility in a floodplain.

The location of the fire hall in a floodplain is another reason, Molino said, that the city shouldn't also build a police station in a floodplain, even though a new building would be elevated, use other strategies to mitigate flood damage.

"If you have a catastrophic event, I'm sure the building would be good, but it would be surrounded by water," Molino said. "You wouldn't have access to it. You wouldn't have utilities. You wouldn't be able to use it."

Under the NFIP, FEMA could tack on a $20 surcharge on everybody's flood insurance policy if the city built a new police headquarters in a flood zone.

"We are obligated to follow FEMA's rules and regulations," Panek said. "If we do not follow all of the rules of FEMA, which highly discourages building critical response facilities in flood zones, we could be sanctioned by the NFIP."

One of Difante's tasks since starting her job last year has been to get the city into a federal program that, essentially, helps lower insurance rates for property owners. The city's flood readiness and mitigation efforts are rated, points are assessed; and the higher the point total, the lower the insurance rates.

Difante met with a federal auditor May 14 and that date is a significant demarcation on how the city is scored going forward. In other words, the location of the fire hall doesn't hurt the city's score, because it's pre-existing, but building a new critical response facility in a floodplain could potentially lower the city's score.

"(May 14) was Day 1," Difante said. "That day started the new rules. They're going to look at things differently. It's not a clean mathematical scale. There is so much human decision making that goes into it. It's subjective, so I don't want to say it will hurt our score, but they can take points off for that, yes. Does that mean rates go higher? I don't know if we can say that. There are also other ways we can make up points. It's a very multifacited, multilayered system."

The decision to drop Jackson Street leaves the task force looking at two final locations -- Alva Place and Bank Street, in the heart of Downtown Batavia, and at the former Wiard Plow Factory location on Swan Street.  The task force is inviting the public to a 6 p.m. meeting June 23 to hear a presentation on how the task force arrived at the two final locations and to solicit public feedback. The meeting will be in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Near the close of Thursday night's meeting, task force members raised the issue of what happens to the Brisbane Mansion if the police vacate the building for a new facility. A couple of task force members were worried some residents might raise that as a concern. Chairman Marc Staley said there is an easy answer to that question: The task force wasn't charged with deciding the fate of the Brisbane Mansion. That is beyond the purview of what it was asked to study.

May 29, 2015 - 2:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Police Facility, batavia.

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There will be at least two more meetings of the PoliceFacility Task Force before a decision is made, but after a tour of the three contending sites for a new Batavia PD HQ, there seemed to be a consensus forming around the Swan Street location.

At Alva and Bank, committee members expressed concern about vehicle and pedestrian traffic and the impact on surrounding businesses, as well as the security of the facility. At Jackson Street, the current Salvation Army location, the floodplain issue looms large. On Swan Street, there was none of that negative chatter while committee members walked the expansive open lot where the Wiard Plow factory once stood.

Chief Shawn Heubusch likes the location.

"I think it's an optimal location," Heubusch said. "It gives us the security we would need. It gives us the ability to get to places we need to get to in a timely fashion. You're not fighting with the traffic you're fighting with on the main thoroughfares at those other locations and you can't beat the lot size here."

The committee will meet next week to hear from Assistant City Manager Gretchen Difante and Code Enforcement Officer Ron Panek about the floodplain issues at the Salvation Army location and then the committee would like to hold a public meeting a couple of weeks later so that local residents can learn a bit of what the committee learned about all the locations considered and be given a chance to weigh in and perhaps raise issues not yet discussed by the committee.

One of Difante's current duties is developing a program that will lower the cost of flood insurance in the city. One part of that process is improving the city's score in a flood-readiness rating system. Building a critical facility in a floodplain would lower the city's score. How much and what the impact on residents flood-insurance policies would be is something the committee will learn about its next meeting.

But even with community rating aside, City Manager Jason Molino conceded during a discussion at the Salvation Army site, building a police headquarters in a floodplain is not optimal as a practical matter. 

In a major flood, about 40 percent of the workforce won't be available, Molino said, because people will be dealing with their own family issues, and a police HQ would become difficult to access, compounding the problem.

"The last major flood was in 1942, so you could say we're due for another 100-year flood in the next 30 years," Molino said. "It's likely to happen within our lifetimes, within the next half century."

Marc Staley, chairman of the task force, said he's pretty much taken Jackson Street off his list, is leaning toward Swan Street. But he looks on the Alva and Bank location more favorably after walking the lot and hearing what others have to say about the location. It would help improve density Downtown and could spur more economic activity in the city's primary commercial district.

"I think space-wise, this (Swan Street) is fantastic," Staley said. "It's out of the floodplain, cost-wise, it's within our reach, and it could spur economic development in the area. It's a part of the city that has had very little investment over the past 40 or 50 years. The fact that it's so close to Ellicott and so close to Main means it's really in the heart of the city. People don't think of this as the heart of the city, but we're so close to everything right here."

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The committee and members of the local media were shuttled to the three locations in the police department's ERT van.

February 13, 2015 - 1:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD, Police Facility.

The third of five meetings for the Police Facilities Task Force had members looking at drawings and maps and thinking about traffic patterns, parking and floodplains.

The committee reviewed the proposed sites for a new police station, looked at the options for remodeling the current location -- the old Brisbane Mansion -- and asked why a variety other locations in the city weren't considered.

The task of the task force is to come up with a recommendation for the City Council by July 1.

They meet next on March 10 to look at financing options.

Their virtual tour of potential locations started at 56 Ellicott St., the former Santy Tires location.

Advantages include access to Ellicott Street and Evans Street (a driveway would extend along the north side of the Salvation Army building), high visibility Downtown and the opportunity for all new construction.

The downsides include being in the floodplain (though, by a slight margin, the highest of the sites in floodplains), some level of environmental remediation because of the former auto repair shop and gas stations, and proximity to the Della Penna property.

The Della Penna property itself has been taken off the list because the lot size is slightly too small and it will require significant environmental remediation.

Next up was the Salvation Army building on Jackson Street.

The location is not as visible as 56 Ellicott, but not entirely hidden either. It's also in the floodplain, but would offer a good configuration for the actual building as providing separate parking for police and civilians with separate access points.

The current building is not suitable for retrofitting to meet the needs of a modern police headquarters, so would need to be torn down and a new building constructed.

Another location for a new building is 165 Evans St.

The location would offer a lot of space, but it also creates a lot of problems. It would eliminate the current parking for Falleti Ice Arena, forcing new parking behind the building and perhaps changing the primary entrance for the rink to the back of the building or the north side.

"We've identified that there was a parking issue with the ice rink and that we would need to reconfigure it, but we didn't come up with a solution," City Manager Jason Molino said.

There's a seven-acre lot behind that location and Molino said the city is getting some serious interest in redeveloping that land.

Also under consideration is co-locating with the Sheriff's Office on Park Road.

This is not the clear win advocates of shared services might think. One of the big cost drivers (making it a very expensive option) is that the new building would require new mechanicals. If the two buildings had been constructed as one facility or built at the same time, then they could share heating and air and such; but they weren't, so they can't.

"If it's not that much cheaper, why are we discussing it?" Molino said. "Because, for 25 years, people have been suggesting it, so it at least deserves a good evaluation or people will always be asking the question and saying, 'well, you didn't look at this site.' "

The biggest challenge, Molino said, would be for the city and county to come up with an operating agreement -- how costs would be allocated, what would be shared, what would remain separate, and similar operations issues.

The location, being well outside the heart of the city, would also require a satellite office for the department somewhere Downtown.

For the current facility, which is more than 150 years old, there are two options: Tear down the 1963 addition to the facility (the entire back of the building) and build new or remodel the existing wing.

Neither option offers significant cost savings over building an entirely new building at another location. It doesn't solve the parking and access issues currently faced by the department and no new floor plan could be fashioned that meets the needs of a small city police department in 2014.

But officers could have an indoor firing range in the basement.

Another option Molino presented to the task force was maintain the status quo.

Such an option wouldn't improve the layout of the building, because no substantial changes could be made.

The current building isn't compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, so any design changes beyond just the cosmetic would force the city to make the entire building conform to ADA rules. The cost thing skyrockets back up to the range of a complete remodel. 

Enlarging the bathrooms and adding air conditioning to the parts of the building that don't have it are both examples of pressing needs with the current building that would kick in ADA rules.

Chief Shawn Heubusch offered that early on, officials looked at the mall as a possible location, but there's no good solution to some of the access issues it would create.

Any location on Main Street would present access and parking problems.

The city at one time looked at the old armory on State Street, locations around Alva Place and on Bank Street and the Harvester Avenue area and found significant deficiencies in access and traffic patterns with each.

The bottom line: There is no easy answer to the question of where Batavia should house its police force.

Top photo: John S. Brice, architect, Geddis Architects, who facilitated the discussion. Bottom photo: City Manager Jason Molino.

October 1, 2014 - 8:51pm

(Chief Shawn Heubusch explaining safety and security issues with the current building)

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch along with Assistant Chief Robb Yaeger and City Manager Jason Molino made a legitimate case for a better working and functioning police headquarters building during a two hour tour of Batavia Police Headquarters at 10 W. Main St. today.

Chief Heubusch says there are major safety concerns daily.

A comingled entrance at the back of the building is a big issue.

Suspects, police and the general public all come and go in that one entrance at the rear of the building.

Assistant Chief Yaeger says there have been incidents where suspects have not been cooperative when being brought into headquarters in handcuffs. Getting an uncooperative suspect up the stairs can be difficult for officers.

Also the public waiting area is located in the same entryway where suspects are brought in.

Security is also an issue.

The City Youth Officer's office is located in the same area where adult suspects and criminals are brought in for questioning. This area does not comply with NYS law that says the two areas must be separate.

The parking area for police vehicles is also not secure. A secure, fenced-in parking lot is needed.

"The most important thing is safety and security, not only for the officers but the community," Heubusch says. "We have to be able to provide safety and security for the community. If we can't provide it for ourselves, it is difficult to provide it for the public."

(City Manager Jason Molino discusses the older model boiler that heats the building)

City Manager Jason Molino says the discussion about improvements and or a new police headquarters is 25 years overdue.

Improvements have been discussed at length, but no action has been taken.

In the meantime, the 150-year-old building, originally the Brisbane Mansion, is in need of repairs.

.

Crumbling cement, leaking bricks, rotting wood, leaking ceilings and a whole basement that cannot be used due to asbestos contamination are emergency issues that cannot be ignored any longer.

(Rotting wood below windows on the west side of the building)

(Water damage to drop ceiling in basement)

(What is left of a ceiling in the basement area when the building was used as a home, between 1855 and 1917)

According Molino, consultants who have been working on the project for the last 10 months have come up with four alternate locations for police headquarters and two renovation schemes for the existing building.

Site 1 is listed as 56 Ellicott St. and is located at the former Santy's Tires shop. It will cost between $11.1 - 11.9 million to construct.

Site 2 is listed as 96 Jackson St., which is currently the location of the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Cost is between $11.6-12.5 million.

Site 3 is located at 26 Evans St. and is located next to the Falletti Ice Arena. It would include the current ice rink parking area. Cost at this site is between $11.4-12.3 million.

Site 4 is located at 165 Park Road and is located next to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. Cost to build at this site is between $9.9-10.6 million.

Renovation scheme A for 10 W. Main St. will cost between $15.9-17.2 million and includes the demolition of an area of the building built in 1963.

Renovation scheme B for 10 W. Main St. will cost between $11.3-12.2 million and does not include the demolition of the area of the building from 1963.

Site options 1-4 also include improvements to the current building for resale.

The project will be paid for by reserve funds, bonding and grants, Molino says.

A Citizen Task Force Advisory Board made up of citizens, business owners, education and health care leaders will be created next. 

City council will meet Oct. 14 and decide if it wants to move forward with the task force and, if so, appoint one in November.

Molino says he expects a task force recommendation by July of 2015. Construction could possibly begin in 2016 or 2017.

September 23, 2014 - 7:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD, Police Facility.

The list of problems with the current Batavia PD headquarters is long, but the price of doing anything about it is huge.

In the best case scenario, the city will need to spend $10 million on a solution.

Unless, of course, the option selected involves putting head in sand and hoping for the best. That option costs next to nothing, unless of course, the city is sued over some of the potential problems with the existing facility, or disaster strikes.

That's the summary of what members of the City Council heard Monday night from a group of consultants hired to create a police facilities feasibility study.

The consultants were Dominic Calgi, Calgi Construction; John Pepper, Rebanks, Pepper, Littlewood Architects; and, John Brice, Geddis Architects.

Their job -- work with city administration on evaluating three possible scenarios:

  • Construct a new police headquarters from the ground up;
  • Create a new police headquarters using an existing building;
  • Renovate the existing headquarters at 10 W. Main St.

Monday, they presented scenarios for three new-build locations, a scenario for constructing a building with some shared space with the Sheriff's Office on Park Road, and two options for renovating 10 W. Main.

The most expensive option was an extensive rehabilitation and renovation of 10 W. Main, which could cost as much as $17 million. For $10 million, it might be possible to build a new headquarters on Park Road, but there are also a lot of unknown variables that could drive the cost up.

The first step in this process, if it moves forward, is for the City Council to appoint a community task force to study the options presented by the consultants and make a recommendation.

City Manager Jason Molino recommended a task force competely devoid of elected officials, city staff members or members of the law enforcement community. Instead, he recommended citizens from each ward, the school district and UMMC. (Clarification: also, business owners.)

His goal, he said, was to keep it non-political and help assure the public that nobody in the city was pushing a specific agenda.

Council members balked at the recommendation and instead appointed a subcommittee to study the proposed make up of the task force and come back to the full council with a recommendation.  

The council will discuss the proposal again Oct. 14 and if it decides to move forward with a task force, appoint it at its November business meeting.

That would give the city a month to advertise for participants and recommend a slate of task force members.

What are the problems with the existing headquarters, which is occupying space built in 1855 as a rich family's residence and was later used as City Hall?

  • The building entrance is not secure, neither for police nor the public, nor arrestees;
  • Interview rooms and holding cells are not isolated nor secure;
  • Storage of weapons and gear is insufficient;
  • Building egress is inadequate and not code complaint, and egress for patrol cars is insufficient;
  • There is no separate entrance for youthful offenders, which violates state code;
  • Building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means even basic improvements such as upgrading the HVAC system can't take place (unless the city wants to ignore the ADA).
  • Building infrastructure is outdated and in need of replacement (HVAC, water, plumbing, electricity);
  • Hazardous materials exist;
  • Installation of modern technology requires major renovation (again, triggering ADA compliance issues).

A renovation of the facility would be expensive, not just because of the remodeling expense, but it would also need to be expanded.

The option that would give the department the most space (top photo), with a garage and sally port for prisoner transport at ground level, would cost from $15 million to $17 million.

A less robust option, with a raised garage and sally port, would cost from $11 million to $12 million. For that price, the city could build at one of four other identified locations.

"When renovating an existing structure, it's never going to be good at meeting program requirements as new construction," Brice said. 

During the reconstruction project, the headquarters would need to find a temporary home. One location suggested is the former Robert Morris School.

56 Ellicott St.

This location is the former Santy Tire's location with existing businesses still using a portion of the building. Essentially, it's at the corner of Ellicott and Jackson, but the parcel would be expanded to stretch as far back as Evans Street.

Pros for the site include easy access to Downtown and it would be all new construction. The cons include potential environment issues. It's in a flood zone, so the building pad and parking lots would need to be elevated two feet, and it would compete with economic development plans for Ellicott Street.

The potential cost: $11.1 million to $11.9 million.

96-98 Jackson St.
The current Salvation Army location.

Pros, again, easy access to Downtown. Cons include the purchase price and existing structure torn down, and it's still in a flood zone.

The potential cost: $11.6 million to $12.5 million

165 Evans St., Batavia
The property is next to Falleti Ice Arena.

Pros include the fact the city already owns much of the property.

The cons include, again, the flood area issue, and it's somewhat of a constricted lot for access. Chief Shawn Heubusch pointed out that it would increase emergency vehicle traffic in front of the ice area and it's somewhat removed from Downtown.

The potential cost: $11.4 million to $12.3 million.

Park Road

City Manager Jason Molino said this option, as part of the study, was looked at very seriously, but the idea isn't without problems.

There is less overlap between police functions with the Sheriff's Office than one might assume. For one thing, since the police patrol the city, Heubusch said, they do their reports and interview subjects at the station; whereas, deputies typically do all of their interviews and paperwork in the field.  

The Sheriff's Office doesn't have enough space to share locker rooms, and separate locker rooms would make a shared briefing room less practical. The departments can't share storage because of the need to protect chain-of-custody on criminal evidence.

"It's possible with a lot more thought and investigation between the two units, you could increase the amount of shared space, but it's not built that way now," Brice said. "You might save some space by finding ways to share space, but you wind up renovating more."

The potential cost: $9.9 million to $10.6 million, but maybe more after further study.

For the full study, click here.

September 24, 2013 - 7:12am
posted by Bonnie Marrocco in Police Facility.

The building, once a stately mansion, was not designed to house a city police department, and at the age of 160 years old, it's hardly a modern facility.

The aging structure also needs multiple repairs and upgrades and has space that is too inaccessible to be functional.

At Monday's City Council meeting, city staff discussed with council members a plan to do a facilities analysis for the Police Department.

The current budget includes $45,000 for the study this year and it's part of the city's strategic plan. A request for proposals was issued July 22 and 10 proposals were received from qualified consultants by the Sept. 6 deadline.

The proposals will be reviewed by a committee that includes city manager, police chief, director of public works and assistant police chief.

“The purpose of a police facility analysis is to develop a clear understanding of the services and functional criteria provided by the Police Department and how to best accommodate the needs of the department in a facility,” City Manager Jason Molino said.

Originally built in 1853 by George Brisbane -- the son of James Brisbane, who was Batavia's first merchant, postmaster and deputy county clerk -- it also served as City Hall starting in 1918. It's part of the Genesee County Courthouse Historic District and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

According to the staff report prepared for Monday's meeting, there are several unused and underutilized areas within the building. They are simply inaccessibility because of the design and layout, which has been repeatedly modified over the years.

There are also several health and safety issues, as well as public accessibility issues.

Due to the structure’s age, there are considerable interior and exterior improvements that are necessary to continue to maintain the facility as a safe working environment.

The committee reviewing the 10 RFPs will conduct interviews in the next few weeks and select a recommended consultant to do the facilities analysis by Oct. 15. The council will vote on the proposal at it's business meeting that evening.

The City expects to receive a study that will adequately analyze the department’s operational needs and examine potential facility options. These include improving the current facility, new construction, building an addition to the existing Genesee County Sheriff’s Facility on Park Road, or retrofitting another existing building.

“Each option will include a conceptual estimate of design costs, construction costs, review of operational effectiveness and appropriateness, as well as concept drawings,” Molino said.

The City intends to have the study completed within three to four months of selecting a consultant.

Photo: File photo.

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