Allamakee Public Safety Center Committee recommends Makee Manor site once again

by Bob Beach

The Allamakee Public Safety Center Committee met Wednesday, January 28 with Midwest Construction Consultants President John Hanson, who reviewed his analysis of three possible sites for the construction of a new public safety center and jail for Allamakee County. Though the Committee had previously recommended to the Board of Supervisors that the Makee Manor site north of Waukon be used for the project, a recent proposal from Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to locate the new facility within the city limits prompted a closer look at other possible sites, both of them located along or near the south edge of Waukon.

Hanson first reviewed his analysis of the lot adjacent to the east of the new fire station in the industrial park on the south side of Waukon. He found that for the site to be used for the construction of a new public safety center and jail, considerable excavation would be necessary due to elevation changes on the property. In addition, a 30-feet high, 300-feet long retaining wall would need to be constructed following that excavation. He estimated that the cost of the excavation would be in the neighborhood of $400,000 and the construction of the retaining wall would add approximately $190,000 to the site preparation cost.
Due to the site being located in a valley, Hanson also said that Racom (the communications equipment provider for emergency dispatch), estimated that the cost of moving the County's emergency dispatch center to the site would be approximately $275,000 because additional equipment would be needed to communicate with the existing towers.
Additionally, buildings currently located at the Makee Manor site that are used to store evidence and equipment would need to be replaced at a cost of approximately $270,000. Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick said that there have been security concerns about the current storage buildings since the closure of Makee Manor, and they would need to be replaced in a more secure location if the Makee Manor site is not used for the new public safety center.
Adding additional costs such as paving, Hanson estimated that the cost of the site preparation would be approximately $1.3 million.
Sheriff Mellick added that the relatively narrow width of the streets with curb and gutter adjacent to the property (11th Avenue SW and Second Street SW) would also make it difficult for traffic to get out of the way of emergency vehicles in that immediate location.

Hanson then reviewed his analysis of the Sherman Farmstead located along Ninth Street SW near the Innovative Ag facility on the southwest edge of Waukon. He said that the site is relatively flat and within Waukon City limits with access to water, sanitary sewer and natural gas. He further reported that the current owner of the land had been approached by the County regarding the purchase of four acres at that location, and that acquisition cost was reported at $200,000.
He reported that minimal excavation would be necessary to prepare the site but that Racom estimated that some additional equipment would need to be purchased for the emergency dispatch center for approximately $45,000. As with the previously discussed property, the evidence and equipment storage building would need to be replaced at a cost of approximately $270,000.
Adding the land acquisition to those and other site preparation costs, Hanson estimated that the total site cost would be approximately $965,000.

Hanson pointed out that the Makee Manor site has already been graded to accommodate the existing building and that the County has budgeted for the demolition of the current building whether or not the site is chosen for the public safety center and jail. Other benefits of the site include the existing storage buildings and the three-cell lagoon system. Racom estimated that the cost of moving the existing emergency dispatch equipment to the new site would be approximately $90,000 but that no additional equipment would be required.
Hanson reported that the existing water tower would need to be repaired at an estimated cost of $30,000. Additionally, a new well would need to be drilled at a cost of approximately $80,000 and a fire pump for pressurized storage for the sprinkler system may be needed, which would add around $30,000 to the costs. An 18,000 LP storage tank would also need to be purchased for around $65,000.
All told, Hanson estimated the site preparation costs for construction of the jail and public safety center at the Makee Manor site would be approximately $366,000.

Following Hanson's presentation, the Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that Makee Manor be used as the construction site for the new public safety center and jail. The committee also discussed ways that the levy amount to pay for the project could be reduced, such as either selling the cropland at the County Farm, committing all or a portion of the rent of the cropland to pay down the bond cost, or by dipping into the County's cash reserves to reduce the amount that would need to be borrowed.
Allamakee County Board of Supervisors Chairman Larry Schellhammer said that the Board is willing to consider all of those options in order to ensure the passage of a bond referendum to cover the project costs and that he recognizes that the Board will need to make those decisions before voters are asked to approve borrowing money to fund the project.
Hanson said that the building costs would need to be re-evaluated to take into account market increases since the bond issue was put before voters last November. He said that a second referendum could be held as early as this May, but the Board of Supervisors would need to act within the next couple of weeks to schedule a special election. Otherwise, Hanson said, the next date for a special election would be in August. "The longer you wait," he added, "the more it's going to cost."

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