M’ville plans $43 million Civic Campus near Comeford Park

MARYSVILLE – A few years ago, a consultant recommended the city build a $41 million police-jail-fire facility.

The City Council balked at that price.

But when a new City Council took over in January, and found out not only a jail, but an entire Civic Campus could be built for $43 million, it was an opportunity it couldn’t refuse.

Mayor Jon Nehring said Thursday that the jail now is overcrowded, not only with inmates but with personnel, too.

“We want to stay in the jail business,” he said the council decided. “It’s woefully overcrowded in the office and jail.”

With the city growing so fast, more police are being hired to keep crime under control. “Cities that have jails are able to put people in jail,” rather than letting them go or transporting them elsewhere, which takes police off the road, he said. Discussions about a new jail and city hall have been going on for many years, but the council decided to act now when it saw how much costs were down from a previous jail estimate.

The new police-jail building would cost $23 million. Being consolidated in the other $20 million structure would be: city hall, city courts, community development/engineering and a new community center. Parks would not be at City Hall but could eventually be located at the Opera House.

The 6-acre campus would include Comeford Park to the west and then north. The city hopes the campus would be ready to move into in 2020, with construction beginning in 2019. The city owns most of the 6 acres already and is negotiating with property owners to acquire the rest.

To pay for the campus, the city would sell land where city hall now stands, along with property where the city courthouse sits. It also would sell land near the waterfront that now contains public works and property to its west to private development. Public Works would move its maintenance building to land the city owns west of Parr Lumber. The fire department could take over the property next door where the current Public Safety Building is.

Chief Administrative Officer Gloria Hirashima said Wednesday that the city has a debt of $711,000 annually. With all of these transactions, the debt for a new Civic Campus would be $759,000 – “basically a wash,” she said, adding that’s another reason why the council moved so quickly.

The main additional cost to the public would be a .01 percent sales tax within the city limits. The City Council will vote Monday to see if it wants to take that to voters Aug. 7. That tax would bring in $800,000 a year for the police-jail part of the campus only. The city would pay the other $338,000 each year for 30 years out of reserves and other funds.

“The new council is energized,” Hirashima said. “They want to get projects moving.”

The concept for a new Civic Campus has been in the works for years. The city has not had a major construction project like this for 30 years, when the current Public Safety Building was completed. The city has grown from 8,000 to 67,000 since then. It’s grown so fast that city buildings were acquired piecemeal and spread all around town. This move will consolidate many of the operations.

Hirashima said city staff whittled down the police-jail project in price by almost half, making it more affordable to do an entire campus. She added it also was important not to raise property taxes, as many residents are already upset by increases from other government entities. “Visitors will pay this tax as well,” she said.

If the Civic Campus is built in phases, the police-jail facility would come first. It would have 50 cells for 110 inmates and accommodate growth for 15 years. The jail is 19,272 square feet, which is 380 percent larger than the current one. Space for police would be 26,786 square feet, 274 percent larger.

Parts of the property run for three blocks, from 4th to 7th west of Delta. It also includes The Flapjack Restaurant and the Berean Baptist Church. Dry County Distillery has already moved. The city also is looking at properties north of 7th Street. Building the Civic Campus around Comeford Park was intentional. “It’s a historic park. The community cherishes it with the Spray Park and Water Tower,” she said.

Nehring said the Civic Campus only makes sense, since it can be paid for mostly by selling properties. He said repairs and additions are needed at city buildings because all departments are growing as the city population increases – another reason to build new.

He said residents will love it because the new buildings will be energy efficient, it’s a “one-stop shop” and a “real source of pride for the community.”

Nehring added that it continues the downtown revitalization efforts to “beautify the area. It’s a true community asset.”

Hirashima added that the city will start marketing the waterfront property later this month. The city will be selective about who it sells to as it has its own vision of what it wants in that area.

“This is a landmark project for the city,” she said.

The new swings, playground and Spray Park would not be touched by the Senior Center and area behind it would be developed as part of the Civic Campus.
                                Map of changes for Civic Campus

The new swings, playground and Spray Park would not be touched by the Senior Center and area behind it would be developed as part of the Civic Campus. Map of changes for Civic Campus

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