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City seeking architect services for new police station addition

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West Fargo is one step closer to a new police station after a unanimous City Commission vote Monday night to request qualifications for architectural services.

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This action came following a presentation by officials from Zerr Berg Architects of Fargo who laid out four preliminary conceptual options arrived at after three months of interaction with city and police department staff.

Meetings on establishing multiple predesign options for new headquarters began in September with the city retaining Zerr Architects at that time to work with staff to arrive at the concepts rolled out Monday night.

The intent is to locate a new station on city property adjacent to the current City Hall offices at 800 4th Avenue East where the police department occupies the east side.

The plans call for a construction addition instead of a stand-alone building for the police department area with portions of the existing building vacated by the police department remodeled into additional space for the also crowded city hall staff, including IT areas, and a building inspection area, a connect corridor as well as additional city office and city planning space.

The proposed site is roughly 3.2 acres bounded by 4th Avenue to the north, 9th Street to the east. the existing city office/police department building to the west, and a residential property line to the south.

The four options previewed, along with approximate costs included: a three-story building addition with a garage on the main floor - $7.6 million; a two-story addition with a garage on the main floor - $7 million; a one story addition with an underground garage and a second floor planned for - $7.2 million ($8.2 million if second story is realized); and a one-story addition with a garage on the main floor and a future second floor - $6.1 million ($7.2 million if second story is built).

Police Chief Arland Rasmussen said the need for a new police station has been driven by the city's ongoing growth in both residential and commercial areas.

The 2010 Census placed West Fargo's population at 25,800. Officials estimate the city grew to 27,500 by January 1 2012, an increase of 1,700 residents.

If that trend continues, city planning officials determined that a "build out" of the current geographical area of the city would result in a population of 46,000 achievable in 12.3 years.

Right now the department has 38 officers and a civilian staff of ten with two more officers allocated for in the 2013 budget.

With the projected increase, there would be a need for doubling of the sworn officers and tripling of the civilian staff, which would require 37,000 square feet of office space and an additional 14,400 square feet for garage space to accommodate the increase in city vehicles.

Brian Berg said part of the big challenge was determining how much you build initially?

That consumed part of the discussion with commissioners questioning the efficiency of the build one story and the second story later theory, as well as the pros and con of an underground parking ramp, which tacks an extra million on to the price tag. Commissioners questioned the problems an underground facility would cause with entrance and exiting of vehicles, but on the plus side noted it would free up space for later use.

Alluding to option four which as the lowest price tag.Rasmussen said such a plan would likely serve the departments needs well for 10 years. He said present staff was sharing five spots right now so the extra space would be significant.

Discussion also touched on choosing a plan with a second floor, building it now and leaving it empty until it was needed.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee added that from a functional standpoint a three-story doesn't work, adding he thought consideration should be given to a one-story option that's expandable to two.

Berg added that the proposals are all a "very preliminary design process" that determine what will fit on the site along with a possible cost. "There is a lot of work to be developed into something that will work."

The commission voted to request qualifications to hire an architectural firm to take the project to the next step of design and construction, leaving all four options on the table until further details are firmed up..

If all goes well with this phase, Zerr said construction could start in late spring or early summer of 2013.

Brownlee added that the city has been saving for this project for the last four years and has $5-6 million available to fund such a facility, which includes some sales tax revenue.

In other action, the commission:

-approved second reading and gave final plat approval to the rezoning of Charleswood 29th addition from agricultural to planned unit development and okayed the land use plan amendment from office park to general commercial for a hotel/convention center complex;

-following a public hearing, authorized first reading on the rezoning of Timber Ridge 1st Addition from agricultural to single family dwellings and one and two family dwelling to allow single family and twin home development on a 90-plus acre parcel located south of I-94 and west of Sheyenne Street that is presently being farmed. The request was made by Tom McInnes. City staff also agreed to look at the street situation in the area which could be bounded by the Diversion if the project is realized;

-following a public hearing, granted first reading on the rezoning of Shadow Creek 4th Addition from agricultural to single family dwellings for an 11.4-plus acre parcel owned by Shadow Creek Development located west of 2nd Avenue East and south of 32nd Avenue East, east of the Sheyenne River.

-following a public hearing, approved first reading on a request from Osgood Investments to rezone the 10-plus acre parcel located west of Veterans Boulevard and south of 32nd Avenue East from agricultural to light commercial for general commercial space and a utility substation;

-gave final plat approval to a replat of Meadow Ridge 17th Addition for Keven Olson who wants to split the property for mortgage purposes at 2nd Avenue East and west of 45th Street;

-gave final plat approval to Schmitz and Brennan subdivision, a 5.52 acre parcel located in West Fargo's extraterritorial jurisdiction, along the south side of I-94, west of the Raymond Interchange, to allow for the sale for commercial use;

-favored a request from City Administrator Jim Brownlee and Finance Director Tina Gustafson, for a water meter replacement project that will result in the city installing 1900 meters for existing customers that will make all the meters radio-read. Total cost of the project is $502,778 which will be funded through budgeted sources for 2013, including water meter budget $100,000, capital improvements $100,000, southside hookup excess funds 102,788 and a loan from the general fund reserve of $200,000. Annual savings for the set-up will be about $82,000 with total payback projected in six years.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, Dec. 17, at 5:30 p.m. in the Commission Chamber at West Fargo City Hall, 800 4th Ave. E. All meetings are open to the public.

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