McMinnville officials are moving forward with plans to build a police department behind the Blue Building, while the future of the existing structure is still not clear.
Safety Committee members Ken Smith and Rick Barnes have accepted the preliminary drawings by AEI Architects Engineer Planners done for the police department. They voted to negotiate with that company for a full set of drawings that will be needed for construction.
The decision did not pass without opposition. Alderman Mike Neal voted against it because no decision has been made regarding the future of the Blue Building.
“My reservations with this lies in the existing Blue Building,” said Neal. “With the Blue Building not having any type of plan for any type of future usage. I talked to (Industrial Development Board director George) Burke today and he informed me there was a group that was interested but they seem to have gotten cold on it. That would open up another place to put it if the Blue Building were no longer there.”
The Blue Building has been empty since November 2009.
“I think it’s time we dispose of the Blue Building one way or the other, rather than keep kicking the can on down the road,” said Neal.
Neal also expressed concerns for hiring AEI without bidding the project out.
“I understand any kind of clerical work like this does not have to be bid out,” said Neal. “For me personally, a project of this size, I’m very apprehensive about not putting it up for bid and allowing some local or other folks to have a shot at it.”
A full set of architectural drawings usually costs between 4 and 7 percent of the construction costs. With the new facility estimated to be between $1.3 million to $1.5 million, the drawings could cost between $52,000 to $105,000.
Elected officials do not have to bid out architectural and engineering services. State law encourages officials to select a company based on “recognized competence and integrity” and not by the competitive bidding process.
AEI received a vote of confidence from Smith.
“I would recommend that we continue with AEI,” said Smith. “They are familiar with the project, they have done other work for the city and we are not in violation of anything.”
Mayor Jimmy Haley says Burke has not been given a chance to market the building and citizens were told the main building would be saved.
“I think what Mr. Burke would like to do would be to have the building and be able to market it, which he has not been able to do,” Haley said. “I think the fact we said we would save the historical part of the building squelched some of the uproar from the community when we removed the back part.”
Haley favors renovation over demolition.
“The police department is looking for 12,000 square feet and there is 12,000 square feet on the first floor of the Blue Building. The fire department is looking for space. There is space in that building as well. I’m not saying we have to do that, but we would be destroying a whole lot of space that could be used for offices,” said Haley.
Smith says he is in favor of allowing IDB to market the building, but not renovating it.
“I’m in favor of letting the IDB have it or work with it,” he said. “It would take about $3 to $4 million to fix it up. Then, you still don’t have a building that could be used for the police station. That’s my opinion. I’m concerned with the police station now. The Blue Building is not even an option.”
The measure will be sent to the full board for its consideration.