FAYETTEVILLE — City leaders hope voters approve two bond issues to build a new police headquarters and renovate three public buildings.
The measures would save money and better-serve residents, administrators say.
One bond issue would allow up to almost $37 million for a new police headquarters. The other issue would put about $3.2 million toward repairs at three city buildings: City Hall, the parks building on Happy Hollow Road and the police station.
About $35 million and $3 million are budgeted for each issue, respectively, with the added money included to cover whatever the maximum interest rates may be at the time the bonds are issued.
The referendum to continue the city’s 1-cent sales tax to pay for more than $226 million in bond projects is April 9. Early voting starts April 2.
The Police Department has been at 100 W. Rock St. since 1993. The station used to be a J.C. Penney automotive center. It wasn’t exactly an ideal fit when officers moved in, let alone today, Police Chief Greg Tabor said. The station expanded by about 4,800 square feet when the District Court and City Prosecutor’s Office moved out in 2010. The department has tried to use every inch of space it can since then, Tabor said.
Officers change clothes in the hallways. Anyone in a wheelchair has to use an old freight elevator to get up and down floors. Staff find makeshift spaces for mothers who need to breastfeed. Everyone from inmates to victims to residents to sex offenders go through the same lobby at the front door.
A new station also would help Fayetteville stay competitive when vying for new officers, Tabor said. The police departments in Northwest Arkansas recruit from the same pool, and competition is getting tighter, he said.
Springdale residents passed a $41 million bond issue for a new criminal justice center for police and courts and a major renovation of City Hall. The project is in the final design phase and should kick up dirt in April, according to a city spokeswoman.
Rogers voters also approved a bond referendum to give the dispatch center at the Rogers Police Department its own building. The plan is to renovate the current dispatch center to give police more room. Initial construction and design meetings start this month, a city spokesman said.
Bentonville is building a 21,600-square-foot 911 Center and Criminal Investigation Division building south of the main police station using leftover bond money and savings. The framework on the building is finished, and the center should be up and running in September, according to a police spokesman.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine an aspiring police officer passing up Fayetteville for another city with nicer accommodations, Tabor said.
“We have to keep up with the Joneses as far as recruiting that candidate who we want, who Springdale wants, who Rogers wants,” he said.
Other city buildings have aging features that would be addressed through the bond issue, administrators said. City Hall, for instance, was built in 1906 and has had intermittent renovations throughout the years. The parks staff is crunched in its building. The Town Center plaza also would get a facelift.
The city also adopted an action plan last year with a goal to significantly reduce its energy use.
A NEW POLICE CAMPUS
The $35 million project for a new police headquarters would create separate buildings for the police station; training, evidence and vehicle storage; and an indoor firing range.
A study from design firm Dewberry in Tulsa, Okla., identified two potential sites for the campus. Nothing has been set in stone, nor have any offers for land acquisition been made, Deputy Police Chief Mike Reynolds said.
The first suggested site is about 11.5 acres at the northeast corner of Deane Street and Porter Road, which is owned by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. The other is unused city land at the southeast corner of Huntsville and Happy Hollow roads. The city owns about 7 acres and Kum & Go owns about 2 acres at the northeast corner of the plot. Kum & Go bought the corner piece in 2013 but hasn’t developed it.
Dewberry made the suggestions based on what the Police Department would need — about 10 acres of open land. The campus would go in the center of town ideally, but finding that much open land in the middle of the city probably isn’t feasible given growth and development, Reynolds said.
Police considered building substations, but keeping personnel at each all the time was considered too costly, Reynolds said. Communications would become inefficient because divisions would be spread among different buildings across town, as opposed to buildings next to each other as proposed, he said.
“We’re not like the Fire Department. The Fire Department typically responds 99.9 percent of the time from fire stations,” he said. “We’re in the field 24/7, 365, and we’re divided into beats in the city that officers are assigned to, and each beat has an equal amount of workload distribution.”
The study includes potential floor plans for each of the proposed buildings. The idea is to get main operations in the same location, Reynolds said.
Right now, police are spread throughout the city at the main station downtown, a storage facility on Happy Hollow Road, an outdoor firing range on Armstrong Avenue, a bike patrol unit at the Northwest Arkansas Mall and an office at the Spring Street parking deck building.
Reynolds said the department would likely keep a presence at the mall and Spring Street deck, but what would happen at the Happy Hollow Road storage facility and the outdoor firing range once a new headquarters is built is up in the air.
OTHER CITY SITES
Another $3 million bond issue in a separate question would fund improvements and renovations to city facilities.
City Hall has $1.5 million slated for mechanical and electrical replacements. The 21-year-old heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system would be replaced with more energy-efficient boilers, chillers, fan coils and controls. The 37-year-old electrical system would be replaced with LEDs, a system to monitor how much power is used and new controls. The large windows on the first floor facing Mountain Street would be replaced with high-efficiency frames and glass.
The old storm windows at City Hall were replaced last year. Other than that, renovations have been few and far between. The last major renovation at City Hall was in 1982, Facilities Manager Wade Abernathy said. The air conditioning was upgraded in 1998.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan said it’s his goal to conserve energy and taxpayer dollars with more efficient buildings.
“You can build all the new stuff you want, but you’ve got to maintain what you got,” Jordan said. “You’ve got to keep it up to speed. It’s like your cellphone.”
Another $1 million is planned for renovations at two other city buildings: the police station on Rock Street and the parks building on Happy Hollow Road. Work would include LED upgrades, interior office renovations and selective air-conditioning replacements.
The preliminary plan is to move parks staff into the police station, if the police headquarters bond issue passes, Jordan said. The city would put the vehicle fleet in the parks building.
Another $500,000 would be reserved to give the plaza in front of the Town Center a face-lift. The plaza would be resurfaced with waterproof brick, and the trench drains would be replaced.
The city owns the Town Center and plaza, while the city’s tourism bureau, Experience Fayetteville, manages the place. Tourism Director Molly Rawn said the plaza is a space anyone can enjoy. Since 2017, the space has seen new planters and furniture, with the steps in front of the Town Center and the World Peace Prayer Fountain restored.
“This is just one more thing we can do to help make that space safer and more enjoyable,” Rawn said.
Police headquarters project costs
The estimated project costs for the three buildings proposed to serve as a new Fayetteville police campus are as follows: Headquarters building — 55,469 square feet, $25,292,604 Support building — 13,018 square feet, $4,518,316 Firing range — 11,148 square feet, $3,305,707
Total — 79,635 square feet, $33,116,627
Public facilities upgrades
City Hall — $1.5 million
Replacement of HVAC system.
Replacement of electrical system and lighting.
Replacement of first-floor storefront windows.
Current police station and parks and recreation building — $1 million
Selective HVAC unit replacements.
Town Center plaza — $500,000
Replace trench drains.
Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @stacyryburn.