Bonds may finance Kann. police headquarters

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

By Emily Ford
ENOCHVILLE ó Kannapolis leaders likely will ask voters to approve funding for the new police headquarters, which could cost $19 million.
City council members mulled over the long-awaited police project, as well as proposals from other city departments, during a retreat Thursday when they met for 10 hours at Pity’s Sake Lodge, the Rowan County home of N.C. Research Campus founder David Murdock. The planning event continues today at the Core Lab on the Research Campus.
City Manager Mike Legg said he probably will recommend general obligation bonds to pay for the police headquarters.
“For a facility of this size and cost, you want to take it to the voters,” Legg said.
Council did not discuss a tax increase or date for the bond referendum. Rowan County voters last month approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for two public safety projects ó radio upgrades and a jail annex.
Preliminary estimates from Wilson Estes Police Architects of Mission, Kan., put the cost of a standalone police headquarters in Kannapolis at $18,343,419.
“Construction costs are as good as they’ve been in five or six years,” architect James Estes said.
Costs have fallen about 10 percent during the recession, Estes said. When the economy improves, costs will quickly return to pre-recession levels, but “could stay low for 12 to 18 months,” he said.
Tentatively, the 52,784-square-foot police station would stand on city-owned property on Bethpage Road, across from the public works facility. The police department currently has 38,390 square feet, which Estes called “deficient space.”
Police moved into an old funeral home on South Main Street in 1989. The arrangement was supposed to last for five years, Chief Woody Chavis said.
“It’s been longer than that, even in dog years,” Chavis joked.
The department has about one-quarter of the space it needs, he said.
“We are grossly restricted in what we can do,” he said.
The department must rent three storage buildings and keep vehicles and larger equipment on two other sites. Victims who come to the police station sometimes must walk outside to another house to meet with investigators.
The estimated price tag for a new police station doesn’t include significant site grading, which would cost at least $450,000.
“The topography is not ideal,” city engineer Jeff Moody said.
The property includes a 100-foot difference in elevation from one end to the other and would require retaining walls up to 26 feet high, Moody said.
While the Bethpage property is appealing because it’s free and has utilities, Legg said he would look at other sites. In this economic climate, the city could find flat land for a bargain, he said.
Land would have to cost less than $40,000 per acre to make the purchase worthwhile, council member Darrell Hinnant said.
Architects designed the proposed building to accommodate 20 years of growth. In that time, the police force is estimated to grow by 85 percent to 191 employees.
Read more coverage of the Kannapolis retreat in Saturday’s Post.

Click here to see the presentation made at Kannapolis City Council.