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St. Petersburg moves forward with plans for new $40 million police headquarters

ST. PETERSBURG — A year after scrapping plans for a new $64 million police headquarters, the city is one step closer to building a scaled-down version.

By unanimous vote Thursday, the City Council approved a $3.1 million contract with St. Petersburg-based Harvard Jolly Inc. to design the $40 million facility.

Plans call for an 111,000-square-foot building on First Avenue N as well as rehabbing the existing police buildings nearby to make up for 75,000 square feet of space that met the budget ax.

Once additional phases are added in the future, the total cost could reach $60 million.

Not every council member liked that final price tag.

"I think the amount is way too much," said Wengay Newton.

Leslie Curran agreed.

"I think $60 million is a ridiculous amount," she said. "There needs to be serious public involvement."

Thursday's vote allows staffers to move forward with the first of six steps needed to take the project from a wish list to final construction. The council will have to approve each step.

To date, the city has spent $1.9 million to buy land near the existing headquarters. The first phase, programming and master planning, is expected to be done by the middle of August.

Construction is expected between November 2014 and December 2015.

The city has about $32 million for the project that comes from revenue raised from Pinellas County's voter-approved penny sales tax. Staffers expect to use additional money from the tax to cover the cost of additional phases.

Some questioned that way of doing business.

Council member Jeff Danner wondered what would happen if the tax didn't produce the needed revenue, adding: "We're going down a path where I don't see a full financial picture."

Mike Connors, public works administrator, acknowledged that some projects would not get done in the hypothetical scenario.

But Mayor Bill Foster replied: "I believe we've seen the worst of what the recession has to offer."

Council member Charlie Gerdes questioned whether city architect Raul Quintana can manage construction for a new police headquarters while also overseeing a $50 million replacement for the Pier known as the Lens.

Quintana stressed that he and other staffers can handle both jobs. "It's the right time to do both jobs," he said. "It's nothing I am concerned about."

Harvard Jolly also designed the $81.4 million Pinellas County public safety center now being built. The five buildings will house the emergency operations center, Sheriff's Office and other public safety departments.

>>Fast facts

Billboards, be gone

Clear Channel removed 83 static billboards staggered along various city roads as part of an agreement reached with the city last fall. The mammoth signs that used to hawk pawnshops, restaurants and other businesses are gone, replaced by six digital billboards erected near interstates. During a city meeting Thursday, council members applauded when a staffer told the group that the signs no longer litter the city.

St. Petersburg moves forward with plans for new $40 million police headquarters 03/07/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:34pm]
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