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Police HQ remodel budget booms

Sequim Police Department won't be getting an expanded home this year.

City councilors rescinded a proposed remodel at

Sequim Village Center, 609 W. Washington St. of Suite 17, next door to current police operations in Suite 16.

The estimated $248,468 project would have created more briefing room and office space, a physical fitness area, armory and more.

The city has spent about $76,000 on renting Suite 17 since December 2008 despite never occupying it.

After re-evaluating the project with a contractor, Steve Burkett, Sequim city manager, and Paul Haines, public works director, found costs to be $663,000.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to proceed when it's going to cost double," Burkett said.

This total includes money already spent on staff time and a $34,100 settlement agreement with L.P. Hanna Construction of Port Angeles, which was to begin renovation in May.

Booming budget

City councilors originally approved a $300,000 maximum budget for remodeling Suites 16 and 17 with an additional $20,000 for a generator last August.

They unanimously voted to stop any construction on Suite 17 on July 26 after Burkett presented his findings.

"It was becoming more of a long-term solution rather than a short-term one like it was supposed to be," Haines said.

City staff maintain hope that the police department's home is temporary despite being there since 1985.

The intent was to move out when a new facility was built or became available.

The city began a five-year lease of Suite 17 on Dec. 1, 2008, after Robert Spinks, former acting interim city manager and police chief, proposed the idea for a remodel.

Change of consensus

Burkett said he went along with the project because it had been in development a long time and he assumed everyone was in support. He met with all police employees in early July to get their feelings on the remodel with the assumption everyone would be excited.

"Almost all officers didn't see this as benefiting them," Burkett said.

"They thought it was a waste of money and when they say it's a waste of money then that's a strong message."

Big expenditure on empty space

The city is under lease with the McNish Family, owners of Sequim Village Center through December 2013.

Burkett said he tried to find a way out of the Suite 17 lease but was unable to but he does believe the rent is reasonable.

It costs $3,832.93 per month for Suite 17 and $8,131.60 for all the city's rented space in Suites 13, 16 and 17 per month.

Suite 17's rent per year comes to about $46,000; 41 months - or nearly three-and-a-half years - of rent remaining equates to about $157,000.

Burkett said that by spending a large sum on fixing a rented space would mean they'd need to stay there longer.

At this time no immediate plans or budget is set for building a new police facility.

Burkett said they do need some improvements in Suite 16.

There is more than $200,000 of the remodel project funding available for addressing facility and safety issues.

Lt. Sheri Crain, interim police chief, is forming a list of what is most needed.

Putting plans together

Crain said she and other officers believe the initial remodel didn't pencil out for a three-year plan.

"It also doesn't solve our security issues," Crain said.

She didn't want to go too much into detail for problems of safety but did say the facility's accessibility makes it hard for transporting and securing criminals.

"We're going to try and make this place function and more livable in the next two to three years," Crain said.

"We're trying to be economical about it."

Police already have started making more space by rearranging rooms and storage areas.

Crain said her list includes new carpet and paint and cabinets to use vertical space better.

Staff wants to convert the front Suite 16 bathroom into a fingerprinting and soft interview room.

Bidding bumps

The remodel didn't occur faster because it encountered several problems sometime in 2009.

"It was an example of a project that wasn't very well planned out," Burkett said.

It went out to contract twice because the first time staff didn't follow all legal requirements for public bidding.

Five months passed between biddings.

Staff excluded $39,000 for new furniture and office equipment.

A change in architects during the remodel planning and implementation led to several adjustments to the project as well.

Project leaders such as Frank Needham, former capital projects manager, and Spinks are no longer employed by the city.

Future use

Burkett and Haines are evaluating the best use for Suite 17.

A few possibilities involve moving staff from either city hall and/or public works to work there after some alterations.

"We need to find an interim place for our cramped city hall staff," Burkett said.

"Ultimately, we'd like everyone to be in the same building."

No time frame is set for a decision on use of Suite 17.

Burkett said they are definitely going to figure it out soon.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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