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City Council settles on proposal for new police headquarters; Price tag not to exceed $23 million

By Staff | Mar 18, 2008

Nearly a year after voters rejected a $110 million bond for a public safety building, the project may be on track once again as the Cape Coral City Council gave the originally contracted firm, Balfour Beatty, the go-ahead to solicit bids for a new police headquarters.

Both the building and price tag have been dramatically downsized as the structure would be about half the size of the original facility at a cost not exceeding $23 million.

“I think the moment has come and we really have to pull the trigger on this thing,” said Councilmember Tim Day. “To let this go on much longer is not right to our employees and not right to our citizens.”

By a 6-2 vote, the council ended the debate and sent the project on to the architect. Monday’s vote came after Councilmember Dolores Bertolini implored the elected body at last week’s meeting to make a decision one way or the other.

“We know it needs to be built,” she said.

Balfour Beatty Vice President Al Silver said his firm would work closely with architect group ADG to ensure the highest quality product for the best price.

He also pointed out that the figure given was the maximum price the city would pay as all actual construction work would be done by the lowest qualified bidding contractors.

“We’re in a climate where there is more competition out there,” said Silver. “And all of that savings goes back to you.”

Under the Balfour Beatty plan, the three-story tilt-up constructed facility would be built on the VK site in City Centrum.

Following the meeting, Silver acknowledged it would be about four to five months before bids could be submitted as the architect will have to go to work now. However, he reaffirmed his pledge to complete the new building by June 2009.

The two dissenting council members, Pete Brandt and Jim Burch, voted against the proposal because they believed the process did not get enough competition.

Burch also harped on how much the city burned up with ADG and Balfour Beatty on the existing contracts for the previously planned building.

“I just have a bit of a problem with the amount of money we’ve already spent and have nothing to show for it,” he said.

Heading in to the evening’s session, the original proposal called for a not to exceed price of $24.15 million, but Mayor Eric Feichthaler laid down a “gauntlet” to Silver to slash that by more than $1 million.

Silver agreed to those terms, saying value engineering and other cost saving methods would be enough to bring the price down.

“We’re going to find a way to make it $23 million or less,” he said.

Councilmember Eric Grill was on the fence all night and told the council that he was unsure as to how he was going to vote. His support shifted until he was told that the council’s decision did not commit the city to the $23 million figure; it only authorizes Balfour Beatty to gather bids.

The council could still reject the contract as presented several months down the road.

Until early Friday, council planned to weigh the Balfour Beatty proposal against one from McGarvey Development, which called for a new police headquarters at the Mid Cape Corporate Center. But McGarvey withdrew its proposal, which included the cost of the VK property, after deciding its best course of action was to put the property back on the commercial market.

Two members of the citizens public safety building committee criticized the council for letting McGarvey get away. At Monday’s session, John Miehle said the committee endorsed plan would have been more cost effective than the original Balfour Beatty bid.

“There has been a disservice to the taxpayers if it doesn’t come in below $235 a square foot,” Miehle said.

Former committee chairman Elmer Tabor was more pointed with his remarks, telling the council to “go back to spring training.” He said he was surprised by the elected body’s response to his January presentation.

“I had the opportunity to sit and review that presentation and your responses the next week,” said Tabor. “I was really shocked that out of everyone that spoke to me that night, there wasn’t one question.”

He had further harsh words for the council’s attitude and approach to governance, especially when it comes to the public safety building and future growth.

“You are all eight quarterbacks up there with egos,” he said. “Check your egos at the door, create a team that will take us to the future.”

While a bit taken aback by Tabor’s statements, Bertolini pressed the rest of the council to take a stand and get something done.

“We know we can make it work and we know we can do it with revenue bonds,” she said. “Let’s get this on the road tonight for a change.”