A feasibility study attempting to deal with facility limitations and significant security risks associated with the Abilene Police Department, Municipal Court and City Hall was approved by a 4-0 vote by the Abilene City Commission at its regular meeting Monday.
The commission authorized $34,320 to Olsson Associates to conduct the study.
City Manager Austin Gilley said a comprehensive study was conducted of the overall facility leading to the city’s eventually pursuing a plan jointly with Dickinson County for a combined justice facility. That plan was rejected by the voters in 2017, and the county proceeded without the city with a plan that voters approved this year.
“Now that the county is moving on with its project, the city now is left with some of its issues,” Gilley told the commissioners. “I don’t think there is any support for building anything or doing anything major in terms of remodeling so we are going to have to be creative within the space that we have.”
He said the priority issues are safety and security, mainly to the courtroom.
“There is only one exit to that room and that is not a good design,” he said.
Gilley said that as far back as 1997 a space analysis determined that there were some problems and challenges. However, no action was taken.
In 2007 a staff needs assessment started discussion of a joint city/county building, he said.
Voters rejected a sales tax increase to be used for city hall facilities in 2014.
Voters rejected a bond issue in 2017 to be used for the construction of a joint facility.
“This year the county, obviously, is going on its own path, so we still have all of our needs that we need to deal with,” Gilley said. “We don’t want to spend a ton of money but we do have some safety and security concerns.”
The goal is to have options and an analysis for us, he said.
The project as defined by the preliminary site walk-thru is for a master plan and feasibility study of reprogramming the existing police station and municipal courtroom in city hall to an architectural program of space needs and validation. This study will provide analysis of design options, system condition assessments, structural, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) system feasibility options, budgets and full as-built verification of MEP systems.
City Engineer Mark Bachamp said there is no American with Disabilities Act assess at the police facility.
“You have to step up into the interrogation room. You also have to step up to go to the restroom,” he said.
Because of structure items below, they can’t be moved, he said.
“The other issue is having the mixing of people coming into court with your main office personnel as well, which, I think, needs to be looked at as far as safety,” Bachamp said. “Other than that, it will be looking at structural items in that building and what we can and can’t do.”
Funds would come from the capital improvement fund. Gilley said the city set aside $450,000 for capital improvements.
“I don’t like this any more than anybody does because it seems like an expensive thing,” Gilley said. “We’re pretty locked into our limitations.”
In other action, the commission approved 4-0, with Commissioner Sharon Petersen absent:
•a public hearing for the vacation of the 100 block of Court Street from Cottage Avenue to East First Street and the alley to the east for the future Dickinson County courthouse and jail expansion but tabled action;
•$25,000 for the cost of a satellite garage for the Abilene Police Department on S. Cherry Street for processing investigations that involve vehicles and large items that cannot be brought into the current police facility.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.