While a new police station has been considered by city staff for years, proposals were presented Tuesday that would see that new station relocated closer to the downtown.
About a year ago, three separate proposals for a new Clinton Police Department were presented for a station that would be more than double the size of the current one, allowing for improved evidence storage and increased safety as part of an estimated $3.4 million project.
This week, city manager John Connet presented four more options, all variations that would utilize the vacant RUS building at the corner of Elizabeth and Railroad streets.
“Over the last couple years, we’ve been talking about the need for the construction of a new police department,” said Connet. “We’ve had several plans put together and, after our last plan, you asked us to look at an alternative site as it relates to the downtown area.”
He refreshed Council members’ memories as to previous options presented to them last year following a site study by JFK Architecture, before offering up several more for consideration, all focused on the RUS building.
City staff has kept a new Clinton Police Department station as a potential project within the Capital Improvement Plan for years, with construction hoped to take place within the next several years, however no concrete plans or timeline for that construction has been set by Council. The project has also been placed on the backburner amid tight budgets and a struggling economy.
The age and condition of the building, as well as the need for additional space to store evidence, interview suspects and implement increased public safety measures, all have contributed to the push for a new police station, which was built as a bank decades ago. The existing station on Lisbon Street consists of approximately 6,380 gross square feet and “does not provide the level of construction typically associated with facilities requiring security, high abuse and chain of custody/accountability,” John K. Farkas, president of JKF Architecture, stated in a prior assessment.
A building with a minimum of 14,000 square feet would be required to meet programmatic requirements.
Of the three proposals — Options A, B and C — designed by Farkas and presented to Council last year, two utilized the existing Lisbon Street site, while a third proposed a move across the street.
“Following those options presented to Council last year, we also went and looked at the former RUS site, as a gateway project, a redevelopment in our downtown area,” said Connet. “That property is available.”
The RUS building, located at the corner of Railroad and Elizabeth streets, is about eight-tenths of an acre. Connet said the site does have some groundwater and soil contamination that is currently being remediated by Cintas, which bought out RUS.
“The architect has given us four options to look at on this particular property,” said Connet.
Option D1 would demolish the existing building on the site and construct a single-story, 14,000-square foot building on that site. “There is an alleyway that is part of this property that we could use as a drive-through access from Wall Street and Railroad Street. There would be parking in the back. The property of the building would be close to the existing building, so it could continue that downtown storefront look in that particular area.”
Connet said environmental cleanup issues would be an issue and the construction would come in at $3.8 million. That does not include any property acquisition or demolition costs. Connet noted that the property is listed at $350,000-$375,000, but also said there could some partnerships to offset those costs.
Option D2 would move the new station from existing buildings on the corner, with 13 parking spaces on one side and six in the back. “You would lose some parking there,” the city manager said. “It’s not as efficient as the first option, and not as ideal for us.”
The estimated cost would be just a little less than the first, at $3.7 million.
Option D3 is a two-story facility totaling 15,000 square feet, larger than the originally proposed 14,000.
“This is the staff’s ideal option, if you’re looking for a gateway project,” said Connet. “Parking would be in the back, but by going to a two-story structure, it would allow you to have a smaller building (in relation to space on the ground) and allow you to have a nice public plaza area on the west end of Elizabeth Street. As you came around the corner there, it would open up into a nice building and really set off that end of Elizabeth Street.”
“This particular option gives you more room for growth down the road,” the city manager continued. “It allows you to expand the building. It’s clearly a 50 or 60-year building. You would have room to grow and you could bid an add-on to the building.”
The last option, D4, would utilize 16,000 square feet of existing structure, and demolish the rest. As with a couple of the other options, it would allow for the “downtown look” to continue.
“This is the most expensive of all options, believe it or not,” said Connet. “We would’ve thought it was the cheapest, but it is the most expensive because you basically have to take the roof off and completely rebuild it. You have to do some structural improvements and take the concrete out of the building.”
Of the previous options presented to Council, Option A would bring an addition onto a renovation of the existing police station, to include a complete gut of the existing interior as well as exterior alterations. The station could operate while the addition is being constructed, but additional costs would be incurred by temporary relocation of personnel and stored items. Parking would also be fragmented, the study states. That option would come in at an estimated $3.4 million.
With Option B, a new station would be built where the present front parking lot is for the department. Police personnel and staff would stay in the existing building while renovations are taking place and, once the new building is constructed, the existing building will be demolished. That $3.3 million option, like the first, would include no relocation costs.
Option C would see a brand new freestanding facility constructed across from the existing City Hall that has the possibility of integrating into a single, seamless facility, complete with training rooms and a common lobby for services. However, that option would mean placing the police station behind the Clinton-Sampson Planning and Development office from Lisbon Street, where there is currently a green area that is covered by pine trees.
“We felt that site would encroach into the residential area there, and gets it off Lisbon Street,” said Connet. “That is actually the least expensive of all our options, but it is less than ideal because the police department is not as visible and it is not on a major street.”
A fourth original option, included by city staff, would be to have one large structure that would see all departments move under the same roof. That plan, which came in at approximately $6 million when first proposed, was scrapped a few years back to economic conditions.
“We feel like that might be cost-prohibitive,” Connet said.
Regardless of the eight total options, there would be a significant cost involved, he noted.
“We wanted to review that with you and see if Council had any direction at this point or wanted to come back and address it again,” Connet said. “This is one case where cash flow is not as easy. We’ll have to look for opportunities on how to pay the debt service on building this facility, but we need to continue planning.”
There is still work to be done, with site acquisition and environmental assessments on one hand for the RUS site or utilizing the current Lisbon Street station property on the other.
“If we go down that road, I think there are some other buildings you are going to want to acquire in addition to the RUS building,” said Mayor Lew Starling, mentioning the old Clinton Wholesale building specifically. “I think if you’re going to go down that road, I think you’re going to have to get all that.”
Councilman Steve Stefanovich also noted the old railroad depot, including Andy’s, that will be close to the site and might block the view. Connet said he felt it was set back far enough, that wouldn’t be an issue.
“And there is a move afoot to maybe make some improvements to the depot too,” the city manager said.
Should the RUS building option be pursued as a site for the new station, the current station would likely be sold, city officials said. Starling said he felt more research, definitive cost figures and further discussion was needed.
“I think we need to drill into this a little further,” said Starling. “If we go down that road, I don’t know if we’re going to want to take down a whole block — if we go down that road.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.