North Liberty council opts for larger police station option

15,000-square-foot facility would provide space for future growth

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NORTH LIBERTY — With future growth in mind, the North Liberty City Council has directed city staff to seek designs for a larger, more expensive option for the city’s new police station.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Administrator Ryan Heiar sought guidance from the council on two options for the new police station: a 10,000-square-foot facility estimated to cost around $4 million or a 15,000-square-foot structure that could cost upward of $5 million.

While the city is not in the design phase for the project, Heiar said he wanted to make sure when the designs came back, they reflected the council’s expectations in terms of the size and cost of the project.

“They agreed that they wanted to look at a $5 million facility,” Heiar said Wednesday.

In March, the city approved a timeline to move the police department out of it’s 2,600-quare-foot headquarters at 5 E. Cherry St. and into a new station to be built at the intersection of Cherry and Main streets. The initial timeline called for the police department to move into it’s new facility in May 2019.

Police Chief Diane Venenga has said the department has outgrown it’s station — a former farm house. Heiar said Wednesday the council’s decision — which was not an action item and did not require a vote — had the future in mind.

“It’ll provide an opportunity for some growth,” he said. “We want to make sure what we build is not only going to be adequate now, but also we don’t want to be in the same boat in five years. ... We want to make sure we’re putting the best plan forward. That means spending a little more money now, but we think we’re at a point where we need to do that.”

According to a memo from local architecture firm Shive-Hattery, a December 2016 study that looked at refurbishing a 10,000-square-foot facility for the new police station said that amount of space would have offered inadequate storage space, no “growth space” and “undersized” locker and training areas.

The proposed 15,000-square-foot facility would include all of the elements included in the smaller design — such as interview and interrogation rooms, offices for investigators and supervisors, locker rooms, conference rooms and storage space — but would also include larger men’s and women’s locker rooms, a training room and two vehicle bays.

Venenga said the 15,000-square-foot facility will allow the department to grow along with the community.

“I think that is great,” she said of the council’s decision. “I think that is the right thing to do because we need to plan for future growth.”

On June 27, the council will hear public comment on the proposal to borrow up to $5 million in general obligation bonds for the new facility. The council also will weigh going through a request for proposal process on the project. Heiar said the city is not obligated to go through a request-for-proposal process and has advocated keeping Shive-Hattery as the architect for the project, arguing a request-for-proposal process could set the project back two months or more and not necessarily save the city any money.

“If they want to explore other options, that’s what we’ll do,” Heiar said. “I think everybody understands the consequences for that.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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