May 9, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 19

Assembly looks at police station and jail design options

Petersburg Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht and Petersburg Police Chief Jim Agner approached the challenge of the failing public safety building with an understanding that the only funds available for the project would be from the Fire Hall re-appropriation, and any grant money provided by this legislative session. To date, the project has $4.1 million to work with.

“Our assumption is that any project undertaken must meet current building standards for police stations and jails,” Giesbrecht stated. “We assumed that $4.1 million will not necessarily be sufficient to build a complete police and jail facility to the level the community needs.”

Any project undertaken must provide for the building being immediately useable for jail, dispatch and police operations; the project must be able to be phased in over time, where the initial building may not be 100 percent complete, but can be phased in additional work over a period of time to get the building from minimally usable to what is needed.

“An example of this would be that we could move in without a defined lobby area, but would need it eventually,” Giesbrecht stated. “We could move in without an office for the Chief, but would need one eventually.”

The project must immediately provide certain requirements for the safety and operational efficiency of the department, such as; backup generator, heating system, plumbing and electricity, jail safety issues, officer and dispatch security, shower and bathroom facility, radio and E911 communication, structural integrity of the building and video and audio capabilities in jail area.

“Based on these parameters, we have several options,” Giesbrecht stated. “We have also tried to avoid spending any money, other than time, on engineering, architectural or other consultants in an attempt to maximize the use of the money we do have available.”

Giesbrecht explained that one option that was discussed was to use the existing jail facility and move the administration and dispatch in the adjacent fire hall building.

Many comments were made about this option including the bars on the cells are such that a high potential for a hanging exists and has happened in the past; the heater in the cell block is exceptionally loud and there is a concern that it does not meet the decibel level restriction for the facility; there are rats coming from the toilet on occasion and this is generally an indicator that the sewer system is compromised in the building or under it; there are no floor drains for when a prisoner floods the toilets; there have been sewer smells in the cell block area which are compounded by poor air circulation.

Another option is to use the old Petersburg Municipal Power and Light pole yard on 14th Street.

“This option would be to use the old pole yard as the location for building a new building,” Giesbrecht reported. “The positive for this option is that the Borough owns the lot, the negative is the location. There are residential properties bordering and the road access is a concern.”

Another option that has been presented is to purchase some combination of the Petersburg Indian Association building and the KRSA building along with adjacent lots.

“We have pulled maps of this area and contacted PIA,” he stated. “We have walked the KRSA lot in reference to its proximity to a steep gully on a city owned greenbelt that borders the rear of the property.”

Another option would include the purchase of the Reid Marine Warehouse for a price of approximately $685,000, followed by basic renovations of the building to make it usable for the police and jail facility and meet any initial structural and operational requirements.

“We would be utilizing modular jail cells to meet the needs of the jail facility,” Giesbrecht stated. “It is anticipated that the renovations would need to include at a minimum a backup generator, utilities for the jail cells, structural integrity evaluation, building security upgrades, heating system for the building, radio system, bathroom renovation, shower room and insulation of jail and work areas.”

Giesbrecht concluded that the next step in the process would be to refine the understanding of the structural condition of the Municipal Building Complex and the Reid Marine Warehouse.

“It is my belief that the Reid Marine Warehouse is the most affordable option,” he stated. “However, this is based on an assumption that this building will not need substantial reinforcement and that the cost of the remodel of the Municipal building is beyond our available funds.”

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