COLUMBUS — The city is switching design firms for the proposed public safety improvements as the time frame tightens to finalize a project ahead of the May 2018 goal for a public bond vote.
Columbus City Council voted Monday night to hire Kansas City, Missouri-based Police Facility Design Group to finish the work started more than a year ago by Prochaska & Associates.
“We got as far as we felt we could go with them,” Mayor Jim Bulkley said of Prochaska & Associates, which was hired in June 2016 to evaluate long-term options for the police and fire departments, including the possibility of constructing a shared public safety facility.
“We weren’t satisfied with what we had gotten and couldn’t take them any further,” Bulkley added.
The Omaha-based design consultant has produced some reviews of potential sites for the public safety project and a draft needs assessment for the police and fire departments, but city officials were expecting to see far more than that at this point.
City Administrator Tara Vasicek said a “lack of delivery” led to the decision to move away from Prochaska & Associates, which received about $60,000 of the original $150,000 contract amount for the work it completed.
Bulkley noted that some of the assessments provided by Prochaska can be used as the project progresses.
“We are all really disappointed we couldn’t move forward (with Prochaska) because of the time and effort we put in,” he said. “But this is in the best interest of the people and the money we’re spending to get done what we want to get done.”
Police Facility Design Group has a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time, but Vasicek said the company is “very confident” it can meet the city’s proposed deadlines.
“This is all they do,” she said.
The Kansas City architectural firm works exclusively with public safety facility planning and design.
Examples of its work include the Grand Island Law Enforcement Center, which houses the Grand Island Police Department, Hall County Sheriff’s Office and a drug court, and a fire station and police headquarters in Papillion.
The company will be paid a $29,450 lump sum for its preliminary work on the Columbus project, plus 8 percent of the estimated construction costs for any improvements that move forward. That fee, based on an estimate provided by the construction manager at-risk, would cover construction and site development work.
The initial steps involve reviewing the work previously completed by Prochaska, finalizing the site selection and developing a preliminary design for the project.
That will give the city more information and costs associated with either building a joint public safety facility or separate police and fire stations.
City officials hope to have a plan in place early enough for a May 2018 vote, with public information meetings scheduled ahead of that date.
Columbus residents voted in May 2016 to extend the local half-percent sales tax to finance the public safety improvements, but another vote is needed to issue bonds to pay for the work.
If the project is approved by voters, the city is looking for a guaranteed maximum price by September 2018 with construction starting that fall.
A construction manager at-risk has not been hired yet.
City officials previously looked at property near Columbus Municipal Airport for the joint public safety building and also considered the possibility of renovating the former Walmart building at 3620 23rd St.
In 2014, Columbus-based RVW Inc. put the cost of building a joint fire/police station at $16.32 million for a 72,000-square-foot facility, with the price tag dropping by about $650,000 to renovate the Walmart space.
The downtown fire station is currently located inside the decades-old former city auditorium, which has deteriorated over the years, and the police department operates from a former bank building the city purchased more than 20 years ago.
Both stations need significant improvements, according to police and fire officials, as well as additional space.