The city of Independence is continuing its pursuit of a public safety building near Centerpoint Medical Center.

The city of Independence is continuing its pursuit of a public safety building near Centerpoint Medical Center.

Maj. Brad Halsey, the Independence Police Department’s administrative division commander, called the proposed 20,000-square-foot building “the police department’s No. 1 priority” in determining the actual cost to construct the combined police and fire building. Halsey and half a dozen other city department representatives presented their respective capital improvements program projects to the Independence Planning Commission on March 23.

HCA Midwest Health System has already donated about 4 acres of land for the public safety building, which would be located on 39th Street near the entrance of Centerpoint Medical Center.

The 2010-2016 fiscal year capital improvements program proposal states the project would begin in 2012.

Last year, the CIP stated the project would cost about $5.2 million; however, an emergency dispatch/communications center component was added this year, increasing the total project cost to about $7.755 million.

According to the CIP, efforts to design and to engineer a remodeled emergency dispatch/communications center at the Central Headquarters were unsuccessful because of limited space and water issues.

“Relocating this critical operation to this new complex allows for necessary upgrades and locating regional back-up equipment in a secure and staffed location,” the CIP proposal states.

City staff are now evaluating how the existing fire and police sales taxes approved in 2004, as well as the Centerpoint Medical Center and the Eastland tax increment financing agreements, can help fund the facility. City Manager Robert Heacock said funds exist to build the fire station component alone, though no funding exists to staff an additional fire company. 

“That location is really pretty ideal not only because of the amount of infrastructure and businesses that exist there, but the proximity of the Little Blue Parkway will allow quick access up through the valley as that grows,” Heacock said. “I’ve been here 12 years, and there has been discussion since I can remember being here about an additional fire station in that part of town.” 

The funding is still flexible, Heacock said, because the construction costs of Jackson Drive from 39th Street to R.D. Mize Road and the Little Blue Parkway remain part of the Centerpoint Medical Center TIF agreement. If those construction costs come in below budget, the remaining dollars may go toward the public safety project, Heacock said. 

“Trying to provide crime prevention and law enforcement in Independence’s 78 square miles from a single location on the Square area is problematic,” Independence Fire Chief Sandra Schiess said. “As this whole area grows, it becomes very difficult for us and for police to provide service there. The city is truly struggling to figure out how to address all of those issues.”

In the police services’ sales tax initiative that Independence voters struck down last August, one-time tax-generated revenue would have helped pay for the public safety building since the planned additional police officers would have been phased in over time, Heacock said.

“When we talked about the public safety sales tax, it was never the intention to close the Central Headquarters here on Truman and Noland roads, even though I think somehow that had been rumored,” Heacock said.  “I think there was some confusion about what was being built. The goal of that tax proposal was always to put more personnel on the street, but we had that opportunity because those costs were phased in over a period of time to have some one-time monies that could help pay for a facility to go along with the funds that came out of those TIF projects.” 

The Independence Planning Commission approved the CIP proposal – including the public safety building – with little discussion Tuesday night. Heacock will now review the proposal and will present it with the city’s annual budget to the Independence City Council in June.

He called the CIP “a planning tool” and said that individual projects must be approved with a department’s budget or with an individual contract that goes before the city council.



Police headquarters renovation

Maj. Brad Halsey also presented Phase II of the police headquarters renovation project as part of the CIP. The project is slated for completion in the city’s 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

In July 2008, the Phase I renovation was completed. The detective unit relocated from first floor to third floor, and the south end of the first floor has since remained vacant, Halsey said.

The police department aims to relocate its records unit to first floor’s south end for additional space, as well as build a new front desk to enhance service for citizens, Halsey said. The training unit and public information officer also would relocate to the first floor.

“We do not know the costs yet, so we wanted to go a little higher to determine the feasibility on whether we would move forward on the project and what it would cost,” Halsey said. 

Commission Member Karen DeLuccie questioned the $700,000 construction cost to renovate the first floor. Including architectural, construction, furniture and design costs, the project is estimated at $858,000.

“That just seems awfully high to me,” DeLuccie said.

“Again, those are extremely high estimations on those costs because we just don’t know,” Halsey said. “We do not want to be in a position where we estimate a lower cost than what’s expected and then have to explain why we’re over budget.”

“Yes, but please try not to spend $700,000 on the renovation of one floor, police,” DeLuccie said when she voted in favor of the CIP proposal.

CAPITAL EXPENSES

The city of Independence’s recommended fiscal year  2010-2011 capital expenditures:
Power and Light  improvements: $28,655,000
Sanitary sewer: $6,366,000
Street improvements: $4,640,000
Water: $1,580,000
Utility improvements:  $1,006,000
Buildings/other: $918,000
Public safety improvements: $608,500
Storm drainage improvements: $570,000
Street and bridge mprovements: $478,000
Community improvements:  $450,000
General infrastructure: $150,000
TOTAL: $45,421,500