The Bloomington police station’s move from its current 3rd Street facility to the western part of the historic Showers building that houses city hall has still not been decided by the city council.
Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s idea is to incorporate the police station, as well as the fire department’s administrative headquarters, into the western part of Showers.
The $8.75 million purchase of the Showers building is part of a plan for which the city council already approved a $29.5 million bond issuance at its Dec. 7 meeting.
At the Dec. 7 council meeting, the appropriation ordinance for the expenditure on the real estate could not be voted on, because a requirement for published notice of the hearing had not been met. So the appropriation, and the council’s approval of the purchase of the Showers building, were both put off until Dec. 21.
At its Dec. 21 meeting, the council voted to postpone until Jan. 18 any decision on purchasing the western part of the Showers building.
On Tuesday morning, the four-member committee will be looking to get a clearer understanding of differences between cost estimates from mayor John Hamilton’s administration and the police union.
The city’s police union is opposed to locating police headquarters in the former Showers Brothers Furniture Factory, which was constructed in 1910 and renovated in the mid-1990s.
Serving on the special committee, which under city code can be established by the council president, are: Dave Rollo, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Steve Volan, and council president Susan Sandberg.
The $8.75 million purchase of the Showers building is part of a more than $30-million proposal by the Hamilton administration. The proposal would co-locate the police station and fire department’s administrative headquarters in the building, as well as re-construct downtown’s Fire Station #1, which was damaged in the June 2021 flood, and undertake a major renovation of Fire Station #3 on North Woodlawn, just south of the railroad tracks.
The cost for the reconstruction of Fire Station #1 and the remodel of Fire Station #3, among other projects, is estimated at around $10.5 million.
Bloomington’s redevelopment commission is playing the role of the purchaser for the Showers building. Under state law, that’s why the proposed purchase price of the Showers building, $8.75 million, can exceed the average of two fair market appraisals of the property—$5.5 million and $7.69 million.
It’s because the purchase price is greater than $5 million that the city council, under state law, has to approve the RDC’s purchase agreement. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, the deal has to be closed by the end of January.
At the council’s Dec. 21 meeting, the idea of postponing the decision by a month was buttressed by questions about cost estimates raised at the public mic by police union representatives Paul Post and Jeff Rogers.
The administration pegs the cost of renovating and expanding the BPD headquarters at its current 3rd Street location at around $25.2 million. That compares to an estimated $23.5-million cost for renovating the Showers building, to accommodate both a police station and the fire department’s administrative headquarters.
In addition to the smaller cost, the administration points to the fact that the city would be getting a bigger value from a Showers building purchase. That’s because the fire department’s administration would have a home, and the total square footage would be about double the amount of space that would result from the renovation of the existing BPD headquarters.
One of the specific cost estimates that the police union representatives have questioned is $2 million for ground floor parking under a two-story addition to the west of BPD headquarters. At the location of the proposed 15,000-square-foot addition, there’s currently a 15-space metered public parking lot.
About the parking spaces, Rogers told city councilmembers at their Dec. 21 meeting, “We’ve made it clear that we do not need that. That is not necessary.”
By the police union’s tally, the cost of renovating and expanding the 3rd Street facility is about $6 million greater than it needs to be.
The police union is against relocating to the Showers building based on a couple of different factors, including a concern about adequate ingress and egress to the location.
At the Dec. 21 meeting, Hamilton was not keen to see the council postpone consideration of the proposal. Any questions about the numbers provided by the administration, compared to those provided by the police union, could be addressed that same night, Hamilton said.
Councilmember Steve Volan asked Hamilton: “Is there a problem with us more fully understanding these numbers?” Hamilton’s answer: “I would suggest you ask those questions right here.”