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Bids, bonding approved for police station

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The process of building a new Alexandria police station took its biggest steps forward to date on Monday.

At a special meeting, the Alexandria City Council approved seven construction bids totaling more than $1.9 million for the project.

The council also agreed to issue $5.2 million in general obligation bonds to pay for the facility, which is being built along 3rd Avenue West next to the new Douglas County jail.

Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels thanked the council for supporting the police department even during these tough economic times. He said that the new facility will modernize the department and make it more efficient.

"Thank you for your courage and for believing in the police force," the chief said. "Thank you for your energy."

To commemorate the police department's new era, Wyffels showed the council a newly designed patch that officers will wear on their uniforms. The patch emphasizes Alexandria's unique identity with elements representing the front of the new facility, the lakes and Big Ole.

About the bids

ORB Management, the construction management firm for the new police station, has broken down the building phase of the project to 25 bids and seven were approved Monday.

They included the following:

•Foundation, slab on grade and sidewalks - $171,897 from K. Johnson Construction.

•Masonry - $355,967 from HTH Building and Masonry, Inc.

•Structural steel - $267,214 from Srock Construction.

•Plumbing - $276,530 from Lakes Area Mechanical.

•Heating - $339,800 from McDowall Company.

•Electrical - $454,920 from Alexandria Electric.

•Earthwork - $39,640 from Mark Lee Excavating.

All of the winning bids were the lowest submitted in their category.

With those bids accepted and the phase one site work completed, the project is currently $230,892 over budget, according to Mark Kragenbring of ORB Management.

He told the council, however, that the costs could be modified to meet the total project budget of $5.1 million. He said that certain value-added engineering items could be reduced without compromising the integrity of the building, such as using alternate materials.

The bids that were accepted will allow the construction work to begin right away, Kragenbring said.

ORB is still going over other bids that were submitted for the project and is expected to make recommendations at the next council meeting.

About the bonds

At the recommendation of the city's bonding consultant, Springsted Inc. and the budget committee, the council agreed to issue $5.2 million in general obligation capital improvement bonds that will be paid back over 20 years through property taxes.

The city considered a 15-year schedule, which could have provided some savings in interest, but it opted for the 20 years because the bond payment would be $100,000 less each year starting in 2013.

To lessen the impact on taxpayers, the city will pay only the interest on the bonds in the first three years, 2011-2013.

City Administrator Jim Taddei said that the new debt will be phased in over time when previous bonds will be paid off, allowing the city to maintain a stable level of outstanding debt.

Christine Hogan with Springsted told the council that based on what has been happening in the bond market, the city should expect to receive very good rates. She added that the bonds will be offered as tax-exempt "Build America" or direct-pay bonds with lower interest rates that should provide the city with additional savings.

Even with the new police station bonds, the city will still be at less than one-third of its capacity for capital improvement bonds, Hogan said.

The bond proposals will be opened on August 23 and a recommendation will be made at the council meeting that night.

Police station operating costs

The council also talked about how much it will cost to operate the new police station.

Right now, the city pays the county $25,000 a year to rent police department space within the Law Enforcement Center and pays $220,000 for dispatching services.

Having a separate police station will eliminate those expenses, saving the city $245,000 annually, but it will have other costs to worry about - electricity ($32,000), natural gas ($20,000), janitorial ($15,000), dispatching staff ($44,000), insurance on the building ($3,500) and generator ($12,372), according to Taddei's estimates.

The new expenses add up to $126,873, which should still provide the city with some savings that it could use elsewhere, such as paying off the new facility's debt, Taddei said.

Council member Cindy Bigger asked Wyffels if the police station has considered consolidating dispatching with other counties to save money.

Wyffels said that decision rests with the county. He said that although the new megahertz digital radio communication system that law enforcement is switching to statewide makes regional dispatching possible, he hopes that Douglas County will be among those providing it.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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