St. Petersburg's new police HQ on track to be greener, but also pricier
ST. PETERSBURG — The potential price tag of a new police headquarters continues to rise as City Council members Thursday tentatively approved spending another $4.2 million more to add energy efficient features and more parking.
The rising cost of the police headquarters mirrors the recent price hike for the new Pier. Add to that a steadily increasing bill to fix the city’s leaky sewers, soon to be under a state consent order.
It’s starting to become a familiar refrain in St. Petersburg.
Jim Kennedy, a council member since 2007, said he remembered discussions of building a new home for the police department for $30 million.
“Certainly not more than $50 million,” Kennedy said at a council committee meeting. “Wow. It’s really escalated.”
The additional money for the new St. Petersburg Police Headquarters would pay to add a third deck and about 80 more spaces in the parking garage, install a solar panel array on the garage’s roof and allow the city to use less heat-absorbing concrete instead of asphalt for the pavement outside of the garage.
In a few months, if council members sign off on final cost estimates, the bill for the new headquarters may end up costing more than $79 million.
Construction would start this spring with an April groundbreaking and is scheduled to end in 2018. However, the new building wouldn’t be fully operational until the spring of 2019.
Most of Thursday's discussion revolved around $2.8 million for the solar array, which would be built to withstand 195 mph hurricane-force winds. Savings generated from the project would take 22 years before paying the cost of the solar array off, officials said.
It has been a long journey for the city to replace its aging and decript police headquarters at 1300 First Ave. N. In 2012, then-mayor Bill Foster scrapped plans to build a new building across the street from its current location on 1st Avenue N, citing rising costs and financial constraints.
The project was revived, but costs have only risen. In 2015, Mayor Rick Kriseman said he would build a new headquarters for $70 million. Last summer, the secued parking garage added another $5 million. Officials believe they need a large garage to shelter the police vehicle fleet during a hurricane. The police department's current building isn't even hurricane-rated.
But City Council member Karl Nurse said he was frustrated that building a greener facility had to be an optional add-on. That's because the city’s stated policy for the better part of a decade requires it to create sustainable buildings.
“We’ve spent all the money," Nurse said. "Now if you want to be sustainable, you need to spend more.
“That’s quite a spread between our talk and our walk.”
Other council members, while acknowledging costs have risen, said building a green headquarters was important.
“The larger public value needs to be considered,” said City Council chairwoman Darden Rice.
Added Charlie Gerdes: “We have said we want to be a sustainable, resilient city. Sometimes that will cost more in the short term, but it’s the right thing to do. To me, the sooner we get off fossil fuels, the better.”
The committee directed city staff and architects to proceed with the plan while looking at options to save money.
The project could be built within the existing budget, said city architect Raul Quintana, but council has indicated that it wants the additional parking and green features.
“I think we got great direction today," Quintana said. "We’re on target."
Contact Charlie Frago at email@example.com or (727)893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.