Durham Police Department feeling space pinch

Report confirms facilities are below national averages

jwise@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2012 

RALEIGH

Durham’s police force needs a $64.7 million construction fix, according to a consultants’ report that compared the city’s police facilities with national averages and projected department needs to 2030.

“Just from the beginning, they were already behind the eight ball,” consultant Ben Crooks said.

The Police Department occupies 84,566 square feet but needs 127,455 according to the report, prepared by the consulting firm Carter Goble Associates over the past 18 months. Its conclusions reaffirm previous assessments going back to 2001.

The latest study call for a new police headquarters at one of three possible locations, a new 911 center and two “service centers” housing district headquarters. The new facilities should be ready by mid-2018, when the department’s current leases expire or are due for renewal.

The force currently occupies quarters that are too small, unsuited for police work and need expensive repairs, Crooks and General Services Director Joel Reitzer told the City Council this month.

Since 1991, Durham Police Headquarters has been at 505 W. Chapel Hill St., in a building constructed in 1959 for the Home Security Life Insurance Co.

Reitzer said the city has put at least $4.2 million into the building and has repairs under way and pending for HVAC systems, while the exterior needs about $100,000 worth of repairs.

“I don’t think there’s any question we need a new police station,” Mayor Bill Bell said.

City administrators have recommended three places to put a new headquarters:

• Current site. Requires building a parking garage, headquarters and an annex for forensics, storage and garage, and demolishing the current headquarters. Cost: $46.5 million.

• 600 E. Main St. 4.4 acres. Requires land acquisition; demolishing existing structures, building a parking garage, annex and headquarters. Cost: $45 million.

• 1101 Fayetteville St. (former Fayette Place apartments site). 20 acres. Requires land acquisition; demolishing concrete slabs; constructing a detention pond, detention pond and annex, and surface parking lot. Cost: $41.6 million. Construction would leave several acres that could be developed for other city uses.

Reitzer declined to estimate how much it might cost to buy the East Main or Fayetteville street property. Tax valuation for the East Main site is $1.6 million; for the Fayetteville, $2.5 million. The recommended new 911 center could be done for an estimated $11 million by renovating the current Rigsbee Avenue substation, about $5 million less than the cost of building new, Reitzer said. Durham County would be expected to cover part of the cost.

Substations

A third recommendation calls for the five district substations to be consolidated.

• District 5, covering downtown, would go into the new headquarters.

• Districts 1 and 2 would go into a new North Service Center.

• Districts 3 and 4 would go into a new South Service Center.

Location proposals and other details for those facilities will be considered after decisions are made on the headquarters and 911 center, City Manager Tom Bonfield said.

City Finance Director David Boyd said borrowing for the police expansion is included in the city’s current financial plan and should not require a bond referendum or a special tax-rate increase.

Reitzer said the city staff has no preference among the sites. Bell said either the Main or Fayetteville street locations “outweigh” the current site.

“That’s not an option for me,” he said.

Economic Development Director Kevin Dick said both the East Main and Fayetteville sites could promote private investment in their neighborhoods. Bonfield said the administration will develop the proposals further before the City Council’s budget retreat in February, and seek public response before picking a preferred headquarters location.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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