Over-budget bids for Starkville Police Department renovations could force aldermen to scale back the scope of the project.
The board of aldermen previously allocated a $5.4 million financing package for the upgrades, but uncertified bids the city received range between $6.3 million and $7.5 million.
City staff confirmed two companies — Gregory Construction Services Inc. and McCarty King Construction Company — submitted bids for the project.
Gregory’s base bid is $6.72 million, while the full project — including sally ports and exterior fixes — would cost $7.5 million. McCarty King’s base bid is for $6.32 million, while the full project bid is $7.21 million.
A recommendation to reject the two bids, adjust the project’s goals and re-bid the renovation effort is listed on Tuesday’s aldermen meeting agenda.
The project will likely be delayed for a month while the city regroups, Mayor Parker Wiseman said.
Meetings between SPD Chief Frank Nichols and architect Gary Shafer are expected to determine what — if any — adjustments can be made to the plan.
“The SPD command staff knows what the most important aspects of the plan are, and the architect will have the most insight. The prudent course is to dissect where we are now and answer those questions about programming,” he said. “All that is certain right now is that this sets us back at least a month to six weeks. This will put us on a timeline for re-advertisement, which hopefully can be executed and completed by the second August meeting of the board of aldermen.”
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said he wants to examine the architect’s plans and the bids to see how the two cost points “were so wildly apart.”
“My preference is that we look at the programming of the design and check to see where the differences are. We need to make the necessary changes and re-bid (the project),” he said. “The sooner, the better.”
While aldermen could ditch exterior amenities and some interior improvements, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said he prefers to build a new police station at a different site.
“This has all been a waste of taxpayer money. We could have already had a nice police station built by now,” he said, citing the previous board’s decision to construct a new administrative building instead of a police headquarters. “We’re at the point now we could construct a brand-new building. Would you rather take a $5,000 car and invest $15,000 in it or buy a new car? I don’t like the location, because it has minimal parking and would sit across from (First Baptist Church) day care.”
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, who pushed for the 1-mill tax increase and stood against scaling back the project during its development, said he would also support exploring new construction options if renovation costs remain high.
Selling the former city hall, he said, could help alleviate the financial burden moving forward.
Perkins added he’s hopeful Schafer’s analysis of the project yields more accurate estimates in the future.
“That’s not to say we’ll build a new building, but I think we need to put that on the table,” Perkins said. “I am committed to doing whatever is necessary and proper to ensure we have a first-class police department for decades to come. I am not in favor of scaling back the project just to fit the $5.4 million budget. The only reason we’re having this discussion today — and this is straight talk — is because the architect gave us incorrect information. That’s not me putting him down; that’s a factual statement.
“Why would you want to put $7 million in a building when we could build something new for about the same price?” he added. “The vice mayor has never been against a new building. I’ve been trying to get us to the finish line.”
SPD marked the end of operations at the former city hall Friday with retirement ceremonies for Assistant Chief Chris Thomas and Dispatcher Charolette B. Ware.
Aldermen previously approved a plan moving SPD functions off-site ahead of expected renovations.
Officials did not say the project’s delay would affect SPD’s temporary move.
SPD’s headquarters and administration will be housed at City Hall, while reporting and dispatch functions will move to the Starkville Sportsplex annex. Its investigators will utilize existing and recently leased Synergetics office space, and other staff and operations will occupy South Park Plaza office space on Louisville Street.
The police department will continue to utilize two substations — which house its community oriented policing programs — a training area near the George M. Bryan Airport and Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department for bookings and arrest processing.
While the department is now decentralized, Nichols said that will not hamper day-to-day functions.
“We made a commitment to make this work during the short-term. If we think this is hard, imagine what Gulfport Police Department went through (after Hurricane Katrina) when they completely lost everything,” he said. “If they can go through that, we can go through this.”
Residents wishing to report crimes or speak to law enforcement agents can visit any of the temporary locations, Nichols said. As always, call 911 dispatchers in emergency situations.
Nichols said he will not immediately fill the assistant chief position, as he is creating another slot for a patrol officer and joint records clerk-accreditation manager position.
SPD is also in the process of procuring computers for all of its patrol cars. The project, which Nichols estimated to cost about $270,000, is expected to come before the board Tuesday.
Money to fund the initiative will come from assessments, he said.
Nichols was elected to the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police’s Northern Executive Board at the group’s annual conference in Biloxi last month.
Starkville will host 2017’s MACP conference, he announced, the first time the city has held the event.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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