Safety Center recommendation on Council agenda

The Safety Center Task Force was given 90 days to meet, review information and return to the Council with recommendations about the size, location and financing of a new Safety Center and here’s their answer:

1. Recommendation on Building Size: Having reviewed the data presented to the Taskforce, the Taskforce recommends to the City Council to construct a combined Public Safety Center of 47,500 square feet in size.

2. Recommendation on Building Location: Utilizing the Site Selection Criteria and after a thorough review of 13 sites throughout the City, the Taskforce is recommending two sites for Council consideration:

a. Valley Co-Op located on Highway 3
b. Cowles Property located on Riverview Drive.

Either site will meet the needs of a combined Public Safety Center. The Taskforce strongly encourages the City Council to do a detailed review of all flood protection criteria to determine what can be done at the current Safety Center Site and explore ideas relating to reuse of this site as “gateway” to the City.

3. Recommendation on Financing: Having reviewed the data presented by City Finance staff and the City’s Bond Council, the Taskforce recommends the City Council consider the following options for financing:

a. Voter approval through a referendum of the sale of $10.4 million in General Obligation Bonds.
b. City Council approval of the sale of $10.4 million in Capital Improvement Bonds, subject to a reverse referendum.

The Taskforce further recommends that regardless of which financing option the City Council chooses, a thorough public education process be done prior to approval to move forward with financing.

Read the full report included as an addendum to the Council packet

There are a lot of numbers in the report including 4 pages of square footage for each program or space in the current facility and then a new (usually larger) space requirement allotted by the schematic design for a new facility.   I do not want to debate each item, but I would like to know how the numbers were determined in a general way.  Were these numbers calculated from some industry standard which says for x number of police personnel the facility should have y square feet of locker room space (if so, what is that standard)?   Were they estimated based on inferences from other facilities in the region (if so, which ones?)?  Were they pulled out of thin air (I hope not)?  I am especially interested in how the future growth allowances were figured…

Some numbers are conspicuously absent from the report. In the “Project Budget” for the recommended 47,500 SF facility, the total cost is estimated at $10,400,000 not including site purchase.   The site evaluation matrix included “cost” as one criterion for selecting a location for the facility.   But just how much does the choice of site affect the price tag?  Cost of the property is one number, but what about site preparation, infrastructure and access improvements and any other site specific investments?   And is $10+ million dollars for 47,500 SF a reasonable amount at all?  Looks like $185 per square foot for police administrative spaces and $155 per square foot for all other spaces is the muliplier…where does this number come from?  What’s the per square foot cost of other, comparable, facilities?

Also missing: useful information about the current Safety Center site. The Task Force recommended 2 other sites rather than reusing the current site, but then indicates more information is needed about the current location.  Why is the Task Force asking for information about this so late in the game?   Some questions of reuse or rebuilding might seem to be downstream issues not relevant to the new Safety Center, but if we could sell the current site, for example, and collect property taxes from that highly visible corner, that could offset some of the cost of the new facility.   Or the City could be saddled with a difficult to reuse site.

Referendum or no referendum? At my Ward meeting there was some lively discussion about this one.  One the one hand, some thought that raising taxes for this project required the public buy-in that a referendum brings (assuming it passes anyway).  The other view was that asking the voters for approval on such projects was a step down the road toward California-style government by proposition (which is expensive, to say the least) and reverse referendum would be available if there was great public disapproval.  I tend toward the “no referendum” side because I think the Council is elected to make tough decisions and to lead the city.   Raising taxes is a step which must be undertaken only when truly justified to support the City’s operations.   The Council must be very sure that the increase is needed and that the dollars will be spent wisely…which gets back to all those questions above.

2 thoughts on “Safety Center recommendation on Council agenda

  1. I was mystified by your comments at the work session about the “minority report” , because with all the questions you raise above, It seems like you’re right in line with that minority report.
    Que Pasa?

    I was surprised that this new council had so few questions when there were such obvious holes in the report. For instance: if the DNR regs would not allow expansion on the current safety center site (floodplain, etc.,etc.,) then if a reuse of the building cannot be found, or a buyer for whom the building just happens to fit… Then what? An unusable, unsaleable commercial corner smack at the entry to town?

    There has not been nearly enough consideration, evaluation, or even information about the future of that current building. This omission does not fit well with the idea of planning, or wise use of tax dollars.

    I think the practical outcome will be to have the police stay there, divide up the firehall space… it CAN be done… the building is like a fortress; and build a firehall that has tons of space for equipment and responders, but is not a “fancy” , building, but a very practical techno-stylish pole barn. It could look great but not cost what a masonry building would cost; i.e. the Lakeville fire stations.

    That’s probably what the city can afford, and what the voters would pass.

    • Kiffi,

      My problem with the minority report is the way it was presented. The impression was that Mr Cox, having served on the task force and (apparently) participated in their consensus recommendation was attempting to undermine that recommendation after the fact.

      I have heard from members of the task force and observers of the process who believe the task force would have been more effective if the panel had had a chairperson and if votes had been taken (which would have allowed for a dissenting opinion).

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