City explores new public safety building

Princeton could be getting a new public safety building as early as next year for its police and fire departments.

The council decided last Thursday to hire Greystone Construction, Shakopee, for $15,000 to $20,000 to give the council an idea of what kind of structure would be needed and its cost.

Then, if the city should decide to go ahead with the project and hire Greystone to be the project’s construction manager, the understanding is the fee of up to $20,000 would be rolled into Greystone’s project management fee.

A committee consisting of Mayor Jeremy Riddle, council member Paul Whitcomb, City Administrator Mark Karnowski, City Treasurer Steve Jackson, Fire Chief Jim Roxbury, fire Captain Jason Baumunk, firefighters Tim Jensen and Troy Thompson, police investigator Todd Frederick and officer Matt Mullins have been working on the public safety building concept for more than a year.

The fire department’s main fire station was built in 1968 and the department has outgrown it to where it stores two fire trucks and three trailers elsewhere. The department also has a satellite station at the Wyanett Township maintenance garage. Firefighters in that area can go into those trucks to respond to nearby calls.

The police station, meanwhile, has had a leaky roof the past few years and various council members said that kind of situation should not continue. The department moved into its present quarters in 1994 when the former spaces used by the local ambulance and hospital were acquired by the city and remodeled.

Officers in the department have also pointed to the police station’s design as lacking certain features, including a better seating area for persons asking to meet with an officer, as well as a better evidence room.


Liquor revenue is planned funding

The council is not looking to city taxes to construct the building, which could cost at least $2 million. The $2 million figure was brought up several times during a nearly 90-minute discussion leading to the decision on Greystone.

The revenue source the committee and council are proposing, after consulting with the city’s financial advisor George Eilertson of Northland Securities, is the city’s off-sale liquor store.

Eilertson supplied a proposal last week showing two bonding options which would be repaid with the city liquor revenue – one bonding with a 15-year amortization and another for 20 years. Either one would yield net proceeds of $2 million to construct the building. The actual bond for a 15-year schedule would be $2.26 million, while the one for 20 years would be $2.23 million, when including bond-issuance costs and a debt-service reserve fund. The average interest rate for the 15-year bond would be 2.81 percent, while the rate for the 20-year bond would be 3.39 percent.

The statutory annual debt service figures before interest earnings would be $192,257 for the 15-year bonding, and $160,033 for the 20-year.

Eilertson’s figures showed liquor revenue paying 100 percent of the project through bonding. Mayor Riddle declared that it was fruitless to continue submitting an annual application to the state Legislature to have the state help pay the cost of a public safety building for the city. That’s especially so now with the needs of cities like Duluth to make repairs after recent damage from record flooding last month.

The city submitted applications for state bonding for three years and though the application went the farthest in the Legislative process this year, it still didn’t make it. The city for some time had been looking at a public safety building that would cost about $6 million and asked the state to pay for about half of that.

The originally-proposed safety building included a large area for the city’s designation as a relocation and radioactive decontamination center in case of an event at the Monticello nuclear generation plant requiring an evacuation from that area. The safety building committee has now dropped that part from the proposed building and also is no longer proposing a mezzanine in it.

Karnowski supplied a sketch of a rectangular public safety building for the council study session. But he pointed out that it only shows how much space the fire and police departments would need, and is not meant to be the design.

Mayor Riddle said that with today’s construction technology using tip-up panels, those panels can later be lifted up, turned around and repositioned for expanding a structure, and that could maybe done in this case some years from now.

The council, in deciding to hire Greystone to come up with structural details and estimated costs, had also talked to Winkelman Building Corp., St. Cloud, and the Princeton-based R.W. Builders.

The city has spent $800 so far to hire the Keenan Architectural Group to work on estimating how big a structure would be needed and the preliminary footprint is for 28,419 sq. ft.

One more source of funds to help pay for the public safety building, the council pointed out, is $130,000 that the fire department has saved for such a project.

Council member Victoria Hallin asked whether using liquor revenue to service the bonding for the safety building would affect the city’s program of giving some liquor fund grants for community causes.

Treasurer Jackson answered the costs of the grant program ($10,000-15,000 per year) as well as the potential of spending up to $15,000-$20,000 per year toward possible matching grants for airport improvements were calculated in.

Council member Thom Walker, a carpenter by trade, said he didn’t think the city could get a public safety building as proposed for $2 million, saying he just wanted to make sure there would be enough funds for the project.

Council members bought into the suggestion by Karnowski that the city’s off-sale liquor revenue is likely to increase once the Walmart store opens just blocks away.

“I’m very optimistic that the liquor sales will go up considerably,” Hallin said.

Council member Paul Whitcomb cautioned that the Legislature has annually looked at the idea of opening liquor stores to everybody within municipalities. (Right now cities can control that.) Hallin added that she believes citizens will be happy that tax levy money wouldn’t have to be used to construct a safety building.

One fact not in dispute was the location.

The council said it would go in the south end of the city’s Aero Business Park, located just south of First Street along 21st Avenue, within sight of where the Walmart building is going up to the north.

Fire Chief Roxbury wasn’t able to attend the study session discussion because of a fire call that evening.

But he said the next day that he’s glad to see some progress in the proposal to get a public safety building.

“I’m a very patient man,” he said, adding that even if the progress is in “baby steps,” he is satisfied with that.