SPD renovation plans heading for critical phase

City Reporter

Early plans for the Starkville Police Department renovation project drew a mixed response from the Starkville Board of Aldermen on Tuesday.

Talks for a new building have spanned multiple boards, and in 2014 aldermen decided to forgo purchasing the Cadence Bank property downtown and passed a motion of intent to issue a $3 million bond for a partial renovation plan of the current facility at 101 E. Lampkin St. No funds have been issued for the project.

The building—originally a National Guard armory—was given to the city in the '60s and until 2015, housed the police department and municipal staff. Administrative personnel moved into an independent city hall last November, leaving the police entire control of the facility. Lack of space, out of date codes and roofing problems plague the decades-old building.

The project's architect—Gary Shafer—was allotted up to $245,000 for design services last December. In that time, Shafer and associates worked with SPD to compile a comprehensive master plan for the future renovations contingent upon two different funding packages.

"We need to design a building for entire program that will ensure future expansion of SPD," Shafer said.

Shafer presented two options to aldermen on Tuesday, providing a mix and match menu for design aspects to correspond with either a $3 million or $4.5 million budget. The square footage for each budget is the same at 18,330 square feet, but design elements vary for both options, according to the presentation.

"We are not asking for the Taj Mahal, we are trying to do this for the lowest amount possible," said SPD Chief Frank Nichols.

For the $4.5 million plan, renovations would include spatial updates to add two stairwells and an elevator in the building and reorganize and provide office space for the 77 SPD employees. The larger budget plan would include massive exterior renovations to add a front plaza, a new roof, sally port and renovations to the basement level for youth court services. A key element of the more costly design would allow ADA access to the front of the building, a service currently unavailable on Lampkin Street.

The $3 million plan would include the same internal office space but exclude a new roof for spot patches, secured parking, sally port, all exterior renovations and basement youth court services. ADA access would only be provided at the side of the building for the less expensive plan, according to the presentation.

Neither budget option includes an evidence room, which is listed in the master plan section of the schematic document.

Both options would include an additional second floor for the needed square footage, stairwells, an elevator, departmental office space and some parking lot improvements.

"[The $3 million option] could satisfy our needs," Nichols said. "I would rather have [the $4.5 million option] that would satisfy our needs right now and 10 to 15 years down the road. We will take whatever we get but it has to be better than what we have right now otherwise morale will start to go down."

During the presentation, Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins questioned the multiple option plan and wondered whether the city should focus again on purchasing a new property. Perkins cited a $2.6 million estimate six to eight months ago from former Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams for costs of a new facility, and questioned the discrepancy in costs.

"There has been extensive discussion for a station for the last several years," Perkins said. "At this point, we do not need to take any shortcuts and not piecemeal it or pass the problem onto another board."

After Perkins' comments, Mayor Parker Wiseman urged the board to stay on the partial renovation course, citing the bond intent issuance as a step in the right direction.

To secure another property, the city would head back to square one, Wiseman said. For the total project to purchase property and construct a new building, the board previously faced an $8.6 million price tag for a completely new facility. The higher price tag is expected for acquiring new property and building a new facility, he added.

"The mayor is correct in assuming renovation construction can be done at two-thirds the cost of new construction," Shafer said. "That makes sense because the building has a foundation, slab, roofing and walls. Those materials already in place do not have to be purchased. The most cost effective way to proceed is renovating this building."

Through hiring Cornerstone Government to a $30,000, 7-month contract, the city hopes the lobbying firm could secure state appropriations to move forward with the $4.5 million option. The firm will advocate on behalf of the city in the current legislative session after the board approved the contract in a 4 to 3 vote.

Shafer and aldermen reiterated steps could be taken to adjust the multiple option plan to prioritize the desired design components, following board action.

"With all the construction in the downtown area, I don't know if we could afford a piece of property that would satisfy our needs," said Ward 3 Alderman David Little. "We need to keep moving forward to have a good product in the end."