The Petersburg Borough is taking a closer look at combining a new police station with a major renovation of the town’s half-century-old municipal building. On Monday, the assembly agreed to have an architecture firm take a closer look at that possibility. Matt Lichtenstein reports:

For mobile-Friendly, downloadable audio, click here

The borough contracted with MRV Architects of Juneau to analyze a couple of existing buildings this summer to see if they could be renovated to meet the needs of a new police station and jail. That included the municipal building which is the current home of the police station as well as the borough’s administrative offices and assembly chambers. The firm also looked at a large warehouse that could be purchased from the Reid family in scow bay. Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht presented the Assembly with the results in a nutshell.

“To cut to the chase, its relatively simple. The Reid marine warehouse will not work and the municipal building as a possible remodel project could work,” he said.

There is a lot more space in the municipal complex now that both the library and fire department have moved to new buildings. Foundation problems and other structural issues prompted the push for a completely new police and jail facility as well. However, the borough assembly put aside preliminary plans for that project earlier this year after the estimated cost of the new construction came in far-higher than expected at over nine million dollars.

Whether a major renovation of the municipal building would actually be cheaper remains to be seen. Giesbrecht had no estimates yet and he acknowledged the project would be challenging:

“The concept would be, could you structural modify this building complex, meaning all of them, in a manner that meets the current building codes while we were all still working in it and come up with useable buildings that would give the police department what they need as well as the municipal employees from admin and finance as well and the council chambers?”

For example, Giesbecht suggested the administrative and finance offices could move upstairs and the police station could be housed downstairs.

Right now, Petersburg has 4.1 million dollars in state funding for the project. Assembly member Sue Flint was hopeful Petersburg could secure more with a timely request to lawmakers and the governor.

“When our lobbyist was here in May, he said this is our year to get more money for this project because it’s the second year of the session and everybody’s running for election and in order to get it, we should have a plan to Juneau in December,” said Flint.

The assembly members voted unanimously to get a quote for the cost of design of the project from MRV architects. In related news, they also decided to combine the projects as their number one priority for legislative funding. The police station was already at the top of that wish-list while the municipal building had been number 17.