After a neighborhood meeting two weeks ago yielded no negative responses, the Price City Council voted to move forward with preliminary architectural plans and public input for relocating police headquarters to the old United States Bureau of Land Management facility at 910 North 700 East.
In a public meeting Feb. 23, council members heard a variety of concerns from city staff and officials about the move and discussed the best way to proceed. The city purchased the property about two years ago and is exploring options for the facility.
"We've outgrown our building," said Aleck Shilaos, chief of police. The new facility would offer a number of advantages over the current facility, including doubling space and centralizing offices.
The current plan would accommodate the offices located at police headquarters at 81 North 200 East and the drug task force in the old Central School at 90 North 100 East.
Shilaos explained that, in the next two to four years, a proposed expansion of Cedar Hills Drive north from its current location would create a road near the east side of the property, giving access to the new location from a busier street, alleviating any traffic increases through neighborhoods.
Reporting to the council on the concerns expressed by residents at the Feb. 16 neighborhood meeting, Shilaos explained, "It appears that overall, while it's not necessarily positive, it doesn't seem to be an issue. I've done some research on the property values. The realtor I talked to didn't think it would make any difference one way or another. Traffic concerns from the police department side of it would probably be less than some other type of office. We just don't generate that much traffic other than the police car itself."
Two to four officers are on duty at any given time and they generally spend most of their time away from the station patrolling or responding to calls.
"Nobody said no," commented Shilaos after the neighborhood meeting. Approximately 80 homes were notified of the meeting. Residents north of 800 North on 600 East, 700 East and 800 East were invited to attend. Shilaos explained that about eight or nine families attended the meeting, but others expressed mostly positive feedback via telephone.
Expressing his view of the potential move to the police chief, Council Member Richard Tatton said, "You're doubling your square footage. I think that helps. You're getting the drug task force in with you. I think there's a lot of positives. I think the concerns that were expressed weren't real negative things that can't be overcome. As we move forward through the process, I'd like to see what would it cost to physically truck you up there, communications, new desks, phone systems - what would the additional costs be to actually move you."
In addition to the cost of renovation, costs would be incurred in moving current systems and purchasing new infrastructure for the facility.
"One of the possibilities is that we could move forward with the project and create an office building that would be conducive to an office atmosphere and to the drug task force, that in the event that the proposal to move the police department comes about, we could address whatever minor modifications we would need to make for their situation," suggested the city's chief engineer, Gary Sonntag.
"We're trying to leave the walls in there the way they are now. We're looking at putting in a restroom and break area, upgrading the architecture in the surface-type features and trying to upgrade the environmental aspects of it. I think the city would be in a better position - experience less cost from possibly delay - if we move ahead with the project," continued Sonntag.
Mayor Joe Piccolo summarized comments, suggesting that there were two parts to the issue: first, the issue of architectural planning and renovation, and second, the community impact of moving the police department.
"I know that the north end of town is not going to be up in arms, but we need to review what the south end of town might view of having the police department move two miles away," said Piccolo.
The council voted to continue the current information gathering phase by the police department and to move forward with architectural planning and address future concerns as they become present. The plan includes allowing the architect and police to work with city planning officials to develop plans for modifying the existing facility as well as gathering further information from city residents.
Council Member Jeanne McEvoy suggested that as the public information phase moves forward, that officials take care to give accurate information, especially as they gather comments from residents. "They don't have quality information. If we have just a meeting for open comment, they're going to be commenting on possible rumors."
While the city plans to allow public comment at a future meeting, the council hopes to keep the proposal out of the public hearing phase.
"I think it's from an informational standpoint that you want to gather [residents'] respective opinions and give them an opportunity to have that input into that decision, because it is their police department, they're the ones who are paying for all these things. I think you're just looking for that information, and giving them that opportunity more as a community spirit gesture rather than a legal requirement. There's not a real legal requirement to have those sorts of hearings. I think the better input you get, the better decision you can make," said City Attorney Nick Sampinos, explaining that the city is not required to have public hearings, but that it would be appropriate to gather public comments in a formal setting.
The architectural planning for the project is currently funded by CIB monies totaling $300,000, part in the form if a grant and part loan. The city is looking at a tentative schedule of completing preliminary architectural plans by the end of April, with renovation ti the facility completed by October or November.