A 10-million dollar renovation of Petersburg’s police station and municipal building could get underway as soon as this summer, if all goes as officials are hoping. The borough’s architect Monday led a public tour of the 58-year-old building.
Architect Corey Wall of MRV Architects explained that problems in the building are caused by settling underneath. “What’s failing is that they poured these concrete slabs not connected to those exterior walls and grade beams,” Wall said as he led more than a dozen people through the building Monday. “So what’s failing is underneath us right here the old muck that they put these concrete slabs on is slowly starting to compact.”
The settling slab has meant sloping floors in the police station and walls separating from the ceiling. However a structural engineer has determined the outer wall and roof are still sound. That led the borough to look into renovation, instead of building new. And it will mean juggling borough staff during the project.
The plan is to move the borough manager, clerk other administration staff and the finance office up to the second floor of the building, into the area that used to be the city’s old library. But first all those employees will be moved to rented offices for a year in the Petersburg Indian Association’s building. Existing borough offices and the old fire hall would be remodeled into a new police station and jail.
Wall said the police department would remain in its current place for a year until that work is done. “So that bay that is the police station, we’re just gonna leave that entirely untouched while we renovate the whole rest of the building and that’s what we’re calling phase one,” he said. “So for phase one we’re manipulating the power so the police station still has power and heat, lights, everything. But the whole rest of the building we’re just gonna completely come in with a hammer and take it apart. So that wall that now divides, and we’ll look at it, it’s the south wall of the old fire station, that wall just stays and it’s gonna divide the police station from what’s happening over here.”
Once the new police station and jail is complete, the police department will move out to their old station. Then the inside wooden structure there will be demolished and that area will be turned into a vehicle sally port for unloading prisoners.
Police chief Kelly Swihart explained the need for the sally port, essentially an enclosed garage. “When we have someone we arrest and bring in, we’re on this icy surface out here and if they struggle back there that’s a danger to them and the officers,” Swihart said. “Once they get in here for processing, this isn’t secure. There’s no way for us to secure this door going out without some renovation there, tweaking that frame and also some renovation here in the kitchen.”
New jail cells would also be installed with improved (Americans with Disabilities Act) access and safety measures, along with two new temporary holding cells and secure processing spot for prisoners. “It really makes our folks safer and more secure and it’s just a more professional work environment as well so the work flow makes a lot of sense,” Swihart said.
The new police station lobby would remain on main street, but it would be larger than the current cramped space for the public.
The work will improve the insulation on the entire building. The base bid does not include a new roof, but an added alternative that could increase the cost would add a new roof.
Wall thought the building’s elevator would need to be replaced in 5-10 years. The plans don’t include a new elevator but Wall said that will be an added alternative depending on the bids that come in from construction companies. “Probably wouldn’t propose it if the elevator didn’t need to be replaced at some point in the immediate future anyway,” Wall said. “But because it does, we’re gonna put it in as an alternate in the project and see how the prices turn out.”
Local government has been trying to come up with a new or renovated police station for years. For a while, the police station was part of a larger public safety building. That project price tag grew too large and resulted in a separate fire hall. The municipality then looked into options for building new or renovating other existing buildings before coming up with the latest plan.
The assembly this week gave the go ahead to put the project out to bid. The assembly will still have to vote to award the project and give final approval to the borough’s plan to fund the renovation.