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Views differ over renovation project

May 11, 2005 - More than $1.6 million of the revenue from $9.83 million in bond-like certificates issued by Crestwood would remain if the city proceeds with current plans to renovate the Government Center to include a new police facility.

Newly elected Mayor Roy Robinson and the Board of Aldermen discussed the renovation project last week during a work session called by Robinson that drew roughly 60 people to the city's Community Center in Whitecliff Park.

"... I called this meeting because during the last few months there's been a lot of discussion about the renovation of the City Hall and reconstruction of the police department and many of the citizens that I have been in contact with are very disturbed about the fact that we are going forward with this renovation and and many of them feel like it's too excessive ... for how our finances are. We're not in good shape,'' Robinson said.

Voters in August 2002 approved Proposition S, the extension of a half-cent sales tax to fund construction of the new police building, fund repairs at the Government Center and allow the continuation of the city's street repair and re-placement program. The half-cent, capital-improvements sales tax had been scheduled to end in 2008, but voter approval of Proposition S extended the sales tax until 2023.

In November 2002, the city issued $9.83 million in certificates of participation — or COPs — to fund the construction of a new police building and repairs to the Government Center. Due to the rising costs of concrete and steel, aldermen last summer scrapped the construction of the stand-alone police building and decided to retrofit the Government Center to include a new police facility.

Aldermen voted 6-2 in January to authorize the completion of construction plans and bid documents for the project and authorized the solicitation of bids after the plans and bid documents have been completed. Ward 3 Alder-men Jerry Miguel and Don Maddox were opposed.

During the May 5 work session, architect Steve Knarr of Horner & Shifrin said the project "could be bid tomorrow.''

Current plans estimate the cost of the entire project at $7.867 million, including relocation costs, contingencies, professional fees and furniture, fixtures and equipment.

The cost of issuance and professional fees for the $9.83 million in COPs totaled $344,287. Subtracting the renovation project cost of $7.867 million and the issuance cost of $344,287 from the $9.83 million in COPs proceeds would leave $1,618,713 if the project is constructed as currently planned, according to City Administrator Don Greer, who also serves as police chief.

During the work session Robinson said the project as currently proposed is excessive and should be reduced in scope.

Though most of the aldermen appeared to agree on the need for improvements to the police facility and City Hall, no clear consensus emerged on the scope of those improvements despite Robinson's repeated calls for consensus.

Robinson said, "It's unfortunate that we've gone two years without making any progress and I'm not blaming anybody because of that. I know there was a lot of concerns and what has happened is that we — many people feel that times have changed ...'

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said, "I agree there's a need. There have been some specific needs that have been mentioned. For example, the juvenile holding area, ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance. The difficulty I have is that from — based on a comparison of information that I've seen, the size of this facility that we're looking at is far greater than that of any of the nearby or surrounding municipalities. (It's) larger than Kirkwood, larger than Webster, larger than Sunset Hills. I'm having difficulty understanding the need for the square footage that we're looking at. It seems to me that we should be able to meet the needs without tearing down the front of the, the whole front of the facility, and I think that can be done. I think we need to lay out the needs and then go from there ...''

Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher said, "Well I think it's important that we keep the facts straight here and that's been something that hasn't happened very well over the past few months. And No. 1, the fact is I think we need to keep in mind that the voters voted for this and they are the ones that approved it. If we want to take it away, then I think we need to put it to the voters again. No. 2, this money has been set aside and does not come out of the general fund, so it's not going to cause a problem because it's all accounted for ...''

Regarding Miguel's comments about the size of project, Kelleher said, "... I think we need to keep in mind the fact that we have a specific number of arrests every year. We have a significant amount of more crime than some of our neighboring municipalities and that is why we require a larger facility ... Another fact I'd like to keep in mind is that I'd like to rely on the judgment of our consultants because they're the ones that build the police facilities and, as far as I know, none of us on the board or anyone that has spoken at board meetings has ever constructed a facility of this nature. So you may think that it's too big, you may think there are too many of this, too many of that, but it's all a matter of opinion and I think our consultant is the one to rely on.

"And then lastly, as I recall at the mayoral debate that took place in the Government Center, Roy Robinson talked about how the mayor's office or the chief's office was bigger than the mayor's office and we had more conference rooms than we had police officers and once again I think we need to keep those sort of outrageous statements to a minimum.''

As a "point of order,'' Robinson interjected, "We're here to discuss the needs of the city. We also are going to talk about what options and things and whether there's a possibility of being able to — if there's any way we can come to consensus that we can look at this in a different light. It's immaterial — immaterial about what was said and what was done about during the campaign. What we're trying to do here is come together and try to determine what's best for our community ...''

The focus, the mayor said, is on the renovation project "and if you can add anything to that that will help us make a consensus of this group that we might be able to reduce the size of this facility, then I'll go along with that. Let's not get into — I'm not interested in hearing and I don't think the people are interested in hearing campaign literature.''

Kelleher replied, "Well, I think I was doing exactly that because I started out saying let's stick to the facts and I was alluding to the fact that you did not, and I don't want people to be deceived here ...''

Robinson interjected, "We're not, we're not — nobody's trying to deceive anyone, we're just going to stay off anything discussing about the campaign now.''

Kelleher said, "Well, I'm not talking about the campaign. You said that there was ...''

Robinson interjected, "We're not going to talk about what we were doing a month ago. If you've got information and you had a package to study, give us the information that you think, if you think it ought to be the same size, then state so. Let's don't get off the track. We've got to stay on track.''

Kelleher said, "OK, so I'll just ignore all the — we'll ignore the lies that have gone on in the past and we'll just try to figure this out then.''

Robinson again interjected, "... I'm going to say one more time: Let's keep this like adults and let's talk about the building.''

Kelleher replied, "I'm trying to do that. So the conference room that somebody was upset about being larger or the chief's office being larger than the mayor's office, we can talk about details like that, but I think we need to stick to the facts and rely on our consultant who has put forth the drawing that we have before us.''

Noting that the current proposal has been reduced substantially from what originally was proposed, Ward 2 Alder-man Tim Trueblood later said, "... I'm not an expert on po-lice architecture, don't pretend to be. Don't think anybody on this board pretends to be and we can't see the future ... I'm completely satisfied with this document as presented to us tonight. It's a building we should go forward with. It meets the terms of the election of 2002 ... within the means and financial ability of our city.''

Robinson later noted, "... As Mr. Greer knows the fact that when I was on the Police Board, I also was mighty anxious to upgrade the police facility. In fact, other than to ask him some strong, hard questions about monies and where we're going to get it and all that, I was a big supporter of the police facility and I'm still a big one. I'm not asking for us to not provide an adequate facility for this community. But what I am asking is that I look at things as whether we really need it to be able to accomplish our jobs and the thing about it is, the cell area, the ... sallie port, booking area — those things mean safety to our people. The juvenile holding area next to a police sergeant's — a watch commander's office ... it protects the city and I'm not against that. What I would like to see is that we find a happy medium that we provide these things without having all the necessities that we ... I always called them wants ...''

Maddox said at one point, "... I don't think anyone on this board says let's not build it at all. Let's go ahead and do with what we got. I don't think anyone's saying that on this board, but what we are saying are we going to spend it all or are we going to spend a significant portion of it and try to get by a little bit cheaper? You know, I think that's what we really need ...''

Robinson later said, "Why can't we go with what we really need, which is you were saying the cells where we would keep all these prisoners and you've got a juvenile facility that's adequate with federal standards. Why don't we reduce the size of entry ways, training rooms, the po-lice chief's office, reduce that down to a more a, what I consider a more, a better size? I just don't think the police chief needs as much as that. I mean it's an honorable position and I have nothing against the police chief, but that particular facility over there is much too large.''

At one point Robinson said there's very little to show for all the money that's been spent so far on the project.

Knarr said, "This project could be bid tomorrow. It's ready to go. We're done. I mean that's a lot — that's a big effort. To say you don't have anything to show for it, I'm sorry, but I've been working on it for three years so I feel like I have a vested interest in it.''

Robinson said, "I'm concerned about this amount of money and not having anything to show for it. You, yeah, $7 million later, that might be good for you, but it's not good for the city and the citizens of the city of Crestwood. They need, they need — they have, they have sent me as your messenger and I don't — this is what it is: I want you to do something about reducing the size of this building and I think I would take their word for it.''

Greer noted that the board's vote in January established a timetable for the project and he would need direction from the board to change that timetable. The board was set to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

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