The Abilene City Commission will consider accepting bids projected at $445,000 to remodel the second floor of the city building to house the Abilene Police Department.
However, just when that remodel will occur was undecided.
At the next meeting Feb. 22 commissioners will only decide if they want to accept bids.
A feasibility study was presented at Monday’s study session.
“I think at the stage that we are at now, my understanding is that it is just a feasibility study looking at some options that are available and what it would look like,” said Mayor Brandon Rein. “Obviously, the next step would be to take it out to bid to see what the exact numbers would come in at.”
He said other recent bids have come in below the projected costs in feasibility studies.
“I don’t think it harms us to move forward to see a closer look at what an actual cost would be,” he said.
However, Commissioners Chris Ostermann and Dee Marshall said the timing wasn’t right.
“Making a decision like this before the actual new city manager, I am hesitant about that only because you yourself (City Manager Jane Foltz) didn’t want to fill the fire chief position unless the new city manager was involved,” Ostermann said. “So, in this process, are we doing this before we make a selection? They won’t have any input. That is something I have been thinking about. Maybe they (new manager) would want to do something else.”
“My thought is, this is a lot of money to be spending right now during COVID and not know for sure what is happening to us,” said Commissioner Dee Marshall. “I think that is something that should wait a while.”
“Marcus (Rothchild) will be giving you the 2020 financial review and I think you will be very surprised how well the city is doing,” Foltz said.
“That could be but I still think we need to tread slowly,” Marshall said. “I just don’t think this is anything we should be considering at this time even though it is a project I think we should do at some point. I just don’t think it is feasible right now.”
Financial Director Marcus Rothchild said the money will come out of the capital improvement fund which was set aside a few years ago. He said the funds had been collected when the city was considering a new building.
The voters rejected the replacement of the building, he said.
“Since we are in an historic building, they would like to see us stay there,” he said. “But, at the time, money was being set aside each year.”
He said the 2020 budget ended with $352,000 in the capital improvement fund. He said the budget includes $350,000 for the capital improvement project.
Marshall said she was concerned about putting all the money to the renovation, leaving little or no reserve.
However, Foltz said tax credits of 25 percent of the project could be available.
“It is a great opportunity for us to get some of the cost of this remodel back,” Foltz said. “We’ve already heard from the state historical society, ‘I hear you are remodeling the city building.’ I said not until we get commission approval. We are just bringing it to the table.”
Rothchild said the tax credit could be close to $100,000.
Commissioner Trevor Witt said both Chief Anna Hatter and Assistant Chief Jason Wilkins were involved in the design and that it was important for the users to be involved in the design.
“They are the ones going to be using it,” he said. “It will also help us with employee retainment too, if they have a good space to work in and it is functional and safe.”
Architect Bruce McMillan said a key element of the design is bullet resistant glass and bulletproof walls.
“This is one area that I would emphasize very strongly and that is the protection of your officers and not having a situation where they are vulnerable,” McMillan said. “This is a major concern.”
Police would take over the second floor and planning and zoning would go to offices on the first floor where the police department is now, Foltz said.
“The police department doesn’t see people one-on-one much anymore,” Foltz said. “We have many more opportunities to meet with the public in planning and zoning then we do with the police department.”
Current Abilene Police Department facilities on the first floor of Abilene City Hall do not meet the needs of the department, according to the report.
Architect Garric Baker outlined the renovation project.
Space was identified on the second floor of the building that could be remodeled to provide more space and improve the efficiency of APD operations.
The project timeline was estimated to begin late Spring 2021 and conclude in late 2021.
The police department currently resides on the first floor in City Hall, a portion of the fire department area, and it has utilized available space by expanding into the unused auditorium as well.
However, the needs of the department moving forward will see new technology, a need for expanded space, allocated office space, dedicated workstations, an interview room, as well as a functional layout specific to the Department.
Therefore, the Department anticipates moving to the second floor where an open layout can accommodate the needs more suitably than the existing configuration.
The proposed project on the second floor would see the existing landing at the current courtroom receive updates to include finishes, a window for visual security access for the receptionists and new furnishings.
Upgrades within the reception area would entail new finishes, a security door, and bullet-resistant counter and transaction windows. New finishes, modified desks, and storage layouts are provided for the service
center to conduct business in a safe manner.
In the north wing of the second floor, the chief and assistant chief of police would be outfitted with private
offices with direct access to the ‘bullpen,’ allowing for improved communication with officers. The bullpen would include four workstations, radio docking station, filing and storage space, mailboxes, and a dedicated evidence work area.
Additionally, this space would include a reporting desk where on-duty officers may sit and write their daily reports at the end of their shifts. The patrol sergeant would have a private office. Two investigators would work in a joint office in the northeast corner of the existing space. An interview room located nearest the rear exit and exit staircase would be dedicated for confidential informants, suspects, or individuals being interviewed so they could be escorted into the building, up the stairs, and directly into the interview room in a discreet manner.
Proposed improvements to the existing courtroom include removal of flooring, finishes, court furniture and equipment.
New proposed finishes include installation of an armory, breakroom furnishings with coffee bar, refrigerator, and tables and chairs. Additionally, the space could be arranged in a classroom style layout for training sessions.
Foltz mentioned in her report that City Clerk Penny Soukup said the deadline for filing for the city commission is June 1.
Three commissioners, Tim Shafer, Ostermann and Witt, will be up for election next fall.
Witt was appointed to fill the vacated seat on the Abilene City Commission in 2018.
Voters will elect three commissioners, two to serve four-year terms and eventually be mayor, and one to serve a two-year term.
If necessary, a primary will be held on August 2 with the general election on Nov. 2.
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.