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Fate of Blue Building still subject of debate
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A push is on to force a decision by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen about the Blue Building and/ or a permanent home for the city’s police department. Both measures have been under consideration since 2010.
Building and Grounds Committee members Aldermen Ben Newman, chairman, Ken Smith and Jimmy Bonner unanimously approved three proposals that will be sent to the full board for its consideration this Tuesday night.
Proposal A: The city will build a new McMinnville Police Station behind the existing Blue Building consisting of approximately 12,000 square feet at a cost not to exceed $1.7 million. This indebtedness will be paid by the city issuing seven-year capital outlay notes.
Proposal B: The city will demolish the present Blue Building and construct a new McMinnville Police Station in the area of the present Blue Building. The new structure will consist of approximately 12,000 square feet with a total cost of the project not to exceed $2.3 million including demolition costs. The indebtedness will be paid by the city issuing 10-year capital outlay notes.
Proposal C: The city will renovate the existing Blue Building to develop it into the McMinnville Police Station. The approximate square footage to be renovated will, by necessity, consist of about 27,265 square feet. This renovation will be completed at a cost not to exceed $2.8 million. The indebtedness will be paid by the city issuing 12-year capital outlay notes.
Smith presented the list to the committee and he wants the board to consider each, in order, and go with the first option that gets a majority vote.
“Should proposal A not receive an affirmative vote, proposal B will be voted on by the board,” said Smith. “Should proposal B not receive an affirmative vote, proposal C will be voted on by the board.”
The decision came after reviewing the study presented to them by AEI Architects, Engineers and Planners president Peter Metts and listening to comments from the public.
Metts reviewed the needs of the city’s police department and compared that to the existing Blue Building floor plan. Necessary renovation and alterations in order for the building to be suitable for the police department’s use is estimated to cost $2.38 million.
“Peter, these sketches that you have here and in speaking with the chief, is this a good plan for the police department,” said Newman.
Metts replied, “It’s not an optimal arrangement. No.”
To make the building ideal in fitting the needs of the police department, rather than the department using the current layout of the building, would require an extensive renovation, says Metts.
“There would have to be some true design work that would have to take place in order to take the footprint of the Blue Building and make it fit the needs of the department,” said Metts. “No matter how we arrange the offices in the spaces, we are going to have difficulty making it the most efficient arrangement. It’s not like having a blank canvas and creating something.”
When asked what it would cost to make the building ideal for the department, Metts stated, “It could push the cost estimate up to the prior estimate on renovation received by the city.”
In 2008, an appraisal of the property placed the cost of renovation of the main building at close to $3.4 million. The appraisal also included an additional $2.3 million for the auditorium and gymnasium, which have since been removed.
Newman allowed members of the audience to voice their beliefs as to what should be done with the Blue Building.
Neil Schultz, president of McMinnville Heritage Preservation, wants to save the building.
“This building is a place where thousands of our citizens were educated,” said Schultz. “That means a lot to us in that it has a historical value. I believe the Blue Building is one of our few points of pride that we have here in McMinnville. It’s about 140 years old at the base. The community would like to invest in the city. There is more than public sentiment. There is public dollars that could go into its renovation.”
Dave Wideman is in favor of complete renovation.
“Obviously, we need a new police station and downtown is where it needs to be,” said Wideman. “The Blue Building is an ideal location. It may not fit well in the Blue Building itself. There seems to be enough room in back or on the side that you could build a first-class police station. I would like to see the Blue Building totally renovated and totally used. In the life of a city, what’s $2 million, $3 million, $4 million over the lifetime of the city? Everybody wants this.”
Ricky Jones is in favor of auctioning off the property and building a police station somewhere else.
“Having been a proponent for saving the building, I have changed my mind over the last year,” said Jones. “Part of that is due to the fact that part of it has since been torn down. That building has gone through many different changes over its lifetime. It doesn’t resemble the school I went to. My suggestion is you auction the property off. Put it back on the tax rolls and let someone do something with it. You have several others locations to build a fine police station, if you want, and in better conditions than what you have without interfering with the neighborhood.”
Cliff Davidson thinks the building is in good enough condition to be saved.
“I’m not what you would call your average building hugger,” said Davidson. “It has to be feasible to save a building. I’ve been in and on and through this building and it’s in pretty good shape. I’m not sure if it’s the best place for the police station. I know there are a lot of places where we could build a police station. I don’t have any sentimental attraction to the building at all, but I think it’s an attractive building. It adds to the fabric of downtown and it does have a special meaning to a lot of people. Because it is in good shape, if it is in good shape, I don’t believe you should tear it down. I think it should be repurposed somehow. I don’t think the police station should be built behind it. I think that would detract from it.”
The three proposals will be considered during the regular session of the full board Aug. 26.