No site for new police HQ likely until next year

Nov. 07, 2013 @ 08:26 PM

The decision on where Durham will build its new police headquarters is certain to slip into next year, as City Manager Tom Bonfield says he wants to firm up cost comparisons of the three options city leaders are considering.

Those estimates “are still way too spongy for me to be comfortable” in giving the City Council a firm recommendation on which possibility to go with, Bonfield said on Thursday.

His comments came after administrators and the council signaled that they’ll add $280,000 to the budget for consulting work on the project, with part of that going to pay for work that could help officials firm up the choice.

Bonfield said the necessary aid accounts for “less than $100,000” of the prospective contract amendment with Carter Goble Associates, the South Carolina firm that’s been working with the city.

The potential options for replacing the existing headquarters at 505 W. Chapel Hill St. include reusing the present site, moving to property near the Golden Belt business center along East Main Street or moving to the site of the former Fayette Place apartments off East Umstead Street near N.C. Central University.

Council members late last year voiced a preference for leaving the West Chapel Hill Street property. A firm decision was supposed to follow this spring.

But that timeline has slipped, administrators wanting to take their time because the city’s capital budget is tight.

It lists the headquarters replacement as a $44 million project, and estimates floated by officials last year indicated that there might be about $2.4 million variance in potential cost between the three sites.

Bonfield said it’s critical to get the numbers pegged down because “there’s no room” in the city’s capital plan for a major cost overrun.

“We can’t be off by a million bucks without definitely impacting something else,” he said.

The remainder of the contract amendment would go to preparing procurement documents that the city would use in soliciting offers from would-be designers and builders. The money for that will be spent only if the council green-lights the project.

The selection process has unfolded quietly to date. There were community meetings on it this summer, and Bonfield said Thursday that he’d received a recommendation from subordinates “several weeks ago.”

The Fayette Place site has received what amounts to an official endorsement from N.C. Central University leaders.

Chancellor Debra Saunders-White wrote Bonfield on Sept. 11 to say its use would contribute to the revitalization of the Fayetteville Street corridor and have “a positive effect upon the safety and security of our community.”

She added that it offers the prospect of a city/university partnership that could include “the co-location of a NCCU Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Center.”

Several N.C. Central trustees have also written city officials to endorse the Fayette Place site.