News of a police search usually causes my wife to start confessing to a multitude of unpaid parking tickets. She'll be happy to know this is a different sort of police search.
City officials are getting more serious about finding a location for what could be a new $20 million to $25 million police headquarters. The city is inviting area landowners to express an interest in selling property to the city for the headquarters.
City Hall officials have set a deadline of 5 p.m. Sept. 30 for landowners to submit proposals to the city. Among the factors the city will consider in selecting a site are:
• Size. The city wants 12 to 15 acres.
• Access to other public facilities. Specifically, the city would like a location with easy access to the county jail, the courthouse, municipal court, City Hall, and the city's vehicle maintenance and fueling facilities.
• Costs to install infrastructure such as streets, storm water improvements and public utilities.
• Compatibility with other nearby uses.
The city has included $1.5 million in its 2014 budget to purchase a site and do preliminary design work. City commissioners, however, still haven't tackled the big question of how they would pay for the $20 million or more in construction costs. In the past, city staff members have presented scenarios where a new sales tax or a property tax increase could be used.
As for a leading location for the facility, your guess is probably as good as mine. Several years ago when the idea of a police headquarters was mentioned, I know some city officials were eying undeveloped ground near the headquarters for the city's fire department near 19th and Iowa streets. I don't know if that idea is still in play, but there is still undeveloped property near the fire station.
There's also a lot of undeveloped property near the Douglas County Jail. But that would place the police force on the far eastern edge of the city, and I'm not sure that's what the city is looking for. City officials already have indicated that being on the edge of the city may not be ideal from an efficiency standpoint. The city owns property on the far western edge of the city, near the new interchange for Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway. But City Manager David Corliss has said he doesn't view that as a likely location for a police headquarters.
Other than the county jail, most of what the city wants to be close to — municipal court, City Hall, the courthouse, the city fueling station at 11th and Haskell — is in the vicinity of downtown. In some ways, a downtown site would be the most interesting one to watch, but it also is the hardest one to picture. Finding a site of 12 to 15 acres in the downtown area could be a challenge.
The city could perhaps get by with less property if it built a multi-story building with a parking garage, on a site such as the parking lot that currently serves the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 11th and Massachusetts. But I haven't heard that idea get much traction. There also is significant space available in the former Riverfront Mall building at Sixth and New Hampshire. But I've heard indications that the Police Department would like to have a newly constructed building that is designed specifically for police use, rather than a retrofitted facility. (Full disclosure: Members of the Simons family, which owns the Journal-World and LJWorld.com, are owners of the former Riverfront Mall building.)
I suppose a dark horse possibility is that the city decides to do some rearranging of its current facilities. For example, would the city try to find a new home for its trash trucks at 11th and Haskell and use that site for a police headquarters? I've haven't heard that specifically, but certainly the idea of a new city public works facility has come up in past years.
As I said earlier, it's all a guessing game at this point. I'm sure there are a multitude of other locations around the city that I'm not thinking of. Locations for a police facility are probably like unpaid parking tickets at my house — once you start looking for them, you end up with more than you want.