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Future of Blue Building debated
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The last Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting provided no resolution for Finance Committee chairman Ken Smith, who sought to move forward with architectural plans to build a new police department behind the Blue Building.
“What’s being handed to you is a proposal from AEI,” said Smith.
Two weeks prior, Safety Committee members Ken Smith and Rick Barnes accepted the preliminary drawings by AEI Architects Engineer Planners. They voted to begin negotiations with that company for a full set of drawings that will be needed prior to construction.
Smith says he assumed the item would take the next step and be placed on the agenda for Tuesday to be considered by the full board. When that did not happen, he made the decision to bring it before the board under the category of “Unfinished Business.”
“I assumed there would be a resolution in regard to hiring AEI, negotiating with AEI, on architectural drawings for the police department. It failed to be put on the agenda. We have the proposal from AEI and what I would like to do is have a called meeting of the full board for next Tuesday evening to approve this,” said Smith.
Smith says the project is an urgent matter the board is delaying.
“It has been an urgent matter all along,” he said. “We have been working on this for a long time and this board does not seem like it wants to move forward on it or a lot of other projects. I would like to go ahead and have a special meeting and go ahead and say yes or no to this contract.”
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.
The proposal by Peter Metts, president of AEI, is for 4.9 percent of construction cost.
“He’s willing to do it for 4.9 and that’s the same as the Park Theatre” said Smith.
The board has not gone out for bids on the project and all it has to go on is an estimate of what the project could cost. Alderman Mike Neal says contracting with AEI on its price at this point seems backward in the process.
“That seems a bit backward to me,” said Neal. “We are actually allowing the architect, in some ways, to have an effect on how much money he’s going to be paid for his role. We’ve not given them a limit. We’ve not given him any parameters on how much we want to spend on this, if we want to do this.”
Neal said the city first needs to decide what it wants to do with the Blue Building before deciding on the police station. The city has already demolished the Blue Building’s gym and auditorium.
“I think we should wait on this and make a decision on the Blue Building and have a more open site plan,” he said. “Let’s get our site for certain. I believe, in many ways, if we will look at putting it where the Blue Building is, we will ease some of the concerns the folks in the neighborhood have. Traffic can come out on Colville rather than a residential street.”
Smith questioned, “So you want to spend $3 million to renovate the Blue Building?”
“I didn’t say that,” said Neal. “I want to see if this board wants to tear down the Blue Building and have another optional site for this police department. If we are not going to put the police department in the Blue Building, then this board needs to come to some decision.”
No action was taken, however two meetings have been called to discuss the topic. A Safety Committee meeting has been called May 5 at 6 p.m., followed by a Building and Grounds Committee meeting at 6:15 p.m. to discuss what to do with the Blue Building.