Local News

Petersburg pursues police station, borough office remodel money

Petersburg officials will be in the state Capital this week seeking funding for a renovated police station and municipal building. The borough assembly on Friday gave the OK for the borough to pursue additional state money for what could be an almost-10-million-dollar project.

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Back in September the borough assembly decided to pursue a combined police station and borough office project and asked for cost estimates and preliminary designs for renovating the old Petersburg city hall.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht Friday said he wanted the assembly’s blessing keep going with the project. “We’re looking for your blessing to submit this project to the legislature and say, this is going to be our facility. As part of that I want you blessing in the sense that we can continue moving forward on this project. We don’t have the money for full construction. We do have plenty of money to continue pushing forward on the design process, basically moving the project to, it may be an overused term, shovel ready status so that when the construction money’s available we’re ready to move.”

The borough has four-point-one million dollars in state funding originally secured for a new or renovated police building. The station has a sinking floor and separating walls because of a failing concrete slab. Corey Wall of MRV Architects told the assembly the rest of the building is in good shape. “The slab in the police department was never meant to support the framing of the second floor of the police station that was put on it at a later date and that’s why it’s starting to subside. So that slab needs to be removed but our structural engineer determined that basically the rest of the building was sound and did need some upgrades to be brought up to current structural standards to house a public safety facility but it passed that initial test.”

The structure was built in 1958 and used to house the fire department and library, until those two departments moved into new buildings on Haugen Drive. Wall said the structure is just large enough to fit a renovated police department and jail, along with renovated borough offices. He presented drawings of a rehabbed building that he said would look like new. “The finishes, all the piping, all the wiring, pretty much everything you can see is going to be completely like new, including the outside envelope,” Wall said. “But we also have some advantages which is we get to keep structural items that are not at the end of their life span or don’t even really have a lifespan, we’re not throwing those away and starting new again. So it’s kindof the best of both worlds we’ve found. We’ve done this with a number of facilities and what we’ve found is the trend is actually going towards renovation.”

The estimated price tag for the renovation is seven point one million dollars. However Wall said the estimated cost of the project overall will be nine point seven million dollars. That includes the price of redoing the police communications system, the rent for temporary borough offices while construction work is underway along with design work and construction oversight, furnishings and unforeseen costs. That estimate is about seven hundred thousand dollars above the price tag for a stand-alone new police station. However, Wall pointed out that cost of construction was the same. “So again construction is about the same for a building that’s about four thousand square feet bigger than the other facility was but your project costs are a little bit higher because we’ve put more in on the project cost side. We believe that that’s realistic because that’s what it’s going to take to get the project done completely and correctly but that’s the reason you’re seeing that increase in money for the total project cost.”

Wall said design work was about 15 percent completed. The proposed building would have a new entry and parking area for borough offices, enclosed garage for the police station and would use pre-manufactured jail cells. The building would be heated and cooled with air source heat pumps.

Mayor Mark Jensen said he’d be meeting with legislators in Juneau this week. “I mean we’re meeting with the right people, co chair of finance committee, if we get a chance to go to the governor’s office, and Cathy Munoz, who isn’t our representative, but has expressed she would do everything she can to help us and I believe she’s on house finance so. Tight budget up there this year though so we’ll just do what we can do and see what happens.”

Jensen also asked police Chief Kelly Swihart for his opinion. “Yeah this a great concept we’re happy with it. As we continue we may wanna move some doorways or walls a little bit here and there, move those around a little bit, but I think it’s a great concept and the staff’s reviewed it, everyone seems pretty happy with it,” Swihart said.

The assembly voted unanimously to authorize the mayor and manager to seek state funding for the project.

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