Belleville will spend up to $18 million to move police station

News-DemocratFebruary 4, 2014 Updated 21 hours ago

The Bank of Belleville building, at 720 W. Main Street, will serve as the Police Department's new facility following a vote by the city council on Monday.

PROVIDED/BND

— Mayor Mark Eckert said opening a new Belleville police station and renovating City Hall will cost $16 million to $18 million, which is cheaper than building anew.

Here's a breakdown of the project cost:

* The city will pay $3.1 million to purchase the Bank of Belleville building at 720 W. Main St. The Police Department will occupy the whole building.

* Another $7 million will be used to retrofit the building to include a police telecommunication center, holding cells, evidence vaults and sallyport.

* Finally, the city will spend $5 million to remodel City Hall, which was built in 1957, and make the site compatible with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Why was the building picked?

Belleville Police Chief William Clay said he and the Police Department are pleased with the new location because of the amount of space for operations and parking. Also, the site is close to the St. Clair County courthouse and jail, new Illinois State Police crime lab, Belleville City Hall and downtown Belleville.

The building is highly visible to the community but still set back far enough from the street to be safe for officers, Clay said.

The new building also gives the Police Department a conference room large enough to conduct training and host other agencies for meetings, such as the Major Case Squad or Southwest Illinois Law Enforcement Commission.

The building, which currently houses the Bank of Belleville and other tenants, is 40,000 square feet and sits on 3 acres, allowing the Police Department room to consolidate under one roof and space to expand in the future.

Currently, Police Department employees are spread across four buildings amounting to less than 17,000 square feet of space, and deal with poor conditions such as leaking roofs, Clay said.

What other locations were considered?

Eckert said city officials began looking at the site in May and hired the St. Louis-based Lawrence Group in August to study the Bank of Belleville along with other locations.

Eckert believes the consulting firm will have full recommendations for the City Council in about four to six weeks. He said the city acted to buy the Bank of Belleville property because the Lawrence Group said the site was the best.

Eckert also hopes the new police station will be a catalyst for the West Main Street downtown corridor.

In the next few weeks, the Lawrence Group will work on how to retrofit the Bank of Belleville building. The city does not close on the building until May 1, the start of the fiscal year, to utilize new tax increment financing dollars.

The city is counting on using money from Tax Increment Financing District No. 3 and a short-term loan to move the Police Department into the building. TIF money cannot be used to build a new building, Eckert said.

The Lawrence Group also looked at the Meredith Home and the former Marsh Stencil building as possibilities for the Police Department, but the other sites are landlocked, Eckert said.

Clay believes it would cost the city more than $20 million to build a completely new police station. He used the city of Moline, which has about as many officers as Belleville, as an example: The city spent $16.5 million for a new station, without detention cells or a telecommunications center.

The city also had the firm study whether it made sense for City Hall to move to a new location at 222 E. Main St., the Regions Bank building, but deemed it not financially feasible for both the police station and City Hall to move, Eckert said.

What is the site worth?

The City Council voted 13-1 on Monday to buy the property from Parkhill Estates LLC and Richland III LLC for $3.1 million. The owners paid $68,593 in property taxes in 2012.

The St. Clair County Assessor's Office reports the fair market value for the property at $2.4 million.

Terry Johnson, half-owner of the Bank of Belleville building and real estate broker representing the ownership, said the original appraisal was $4.4 million when he bought the building.

The city had the building appraised at $3.3 million, Eckert said.

Johnson said he paid $3 million for the building and put in more than $300,000 to maintain the building, with a new roof and heating, venting and cooling system.

"It's in impeccable condition," said Johnson, adding he believes it's a smart move for the police station to go into an existing building.

The other tenants in the building include law firm Jennings, Jacknewitz & Schrader. Robert Jennings said he plans to keep his business in Belleville.

The other businesses in the building, VNA/TIP Homecare, TIP Hospice, EFK Moen LLC and LegalDOX, were not immediately available for comment on their relocation plans.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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