By the end of March, Lawrence police officers and detectives will be working out of an office building northeast of 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive.
Lawrence city commissioners are ready to lock up a west Lawrence office building for use as a police operations center.
Price: $2.25 million.
Tuesday night, commissioners are expected to sign a contract to buy a two-story, 29,436-square-foot office building northeast of 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive.
The Professional Service Industries (PSI) building, at 4820 W. 15th, will become headquarters for 80 police officers and detectives by spring and give the department enough room to grow through 2015.
For a police force of 118 sworn officers now shoehorned into offices in the Douglas County Judicial & Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th, the upcoming move is good news.
"These guys have been working in such cramped conditions for so long, they're just tickled to death about the prospect of being able to stretch their legs a bit," Lt. Dan Affalter said. "We have detectives who for the past eight years have been working in a smaller area than what the humane society gives a large dog."
Commissioners are scheduled to approve the purchase without discussion during their next meeting, set for 4 p.m. Wednesday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts. They already endorsed the purchase, in concept, during an executive session June 8.
Chief Ron Olin said the new center would meet the department's needs, both now and in the future. While his first choice would have been to keep operations downtown, expanding the law enforcement center -- at an estimated cost of at least $6 million -- proved to be too expensive.
Heading west was the next-best option.
"It will be a lot easier, because that's where we're growing," Olin said.
Officials have spent the past year checking out possible sites for an off-site operations center, including the former Lawrence Family Practice Center, 500 Rockledge; the Eagles Lodge, 1803 W. Sixth; and Kantronics, 1202 E. 23rd. An effort to buy the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza was unsuccessful.
Officials settled on the PSI site, in part, because Oread Inc. has a five-year lease for about half of the building. Oread uses the space for laboratories and offices, and the city will collect more than $100,000 a year in rent through the end of 2003.
The city plans to give PSI time to find alternate space for its local operations, meaning a sale-closing date sometime in November or December. Police also don't need the entire building right away, City Manager Mike Wildgen said.
The 4.4-acre site includes 107 parking spaces and room for a 20,000-square-foot expansion. The property has been on the market for about a year, listed for $2.35 million.
Marilyn Bittenbender, an associate broker for Stephens Real Estate, said an independent appraisal indicated the property was worth more than the city's purchase price, which PSI officials already have accepted.
"It's a win-win," she said.
The city has been working for years on plans for an operations center, but never committed the money. The city's most recent Capital Improvement Budget -- the commission's own long-term financial plan for major construction projects -- envisioned a $4.15 million center, or less than half the cost of the $8.45 million center requested in the Capital Improvement Plan, a more ambitious planning document.
The project budget for the PSI building: $2.25 million for the purchase, plus another $250,000 for remodeling, including the installation of lockers and other equipment.
"This is a gradual plan that is very much needed, and for less money than the proposals we originally saw," Olin said.
Police currently occupy less than 8,000 square feet in downtown's law enforcement center, opened in 1976. Once operations move out, the space will be used solely for department administration, records and evidence storage.
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