The Auburn City Council approved a resolution authorizing a study to provide a master plan to determine the future of the Douglas J. Watson Municipal Complex at its meeting Tuesday, May 3.
The master plan will provide a long-term recommendation for the municipal complex home to the city's Public Safety Department, the Police Division and the city’s municipal court. Once the plan is completed, the council will then decide whether to renovate the existing complex, build a new complex on the same site or relocate to another lot in the city.
The complex was completed in 1976 and is too small for the growing city, according to city staff.
The council approved Seay, Seay & Litchfield, an architecture design firm, to compile the master plan at a cost of $38,000.
“This is just a master plan, it will take a few months for the study to take place and come back to us,” City Manager Charlie Duggan said. “The idea is to look and see if the building can be built in the parking lot area between this building and Fire Station No. 1. This building would then be demolished and made into a parking lot.”
In July 2015, the City Council approved a contract with the same firm to design a renovation of the aging municipal complex. Seay, Seay & Litchfield’s estimate for renovation of the municipal complex totaled in at almost $7 million.
Plans for the renovation will be halted as the new study is performed and a comprehensive plan for the complex is compiled. Mayor Bill Ham said the high cost of the original plan for renovation was one deciding factor in pursuing a new plan for the complex.
“(Seay, Seay & Litchfield) would be hired to engage in a study to determine what the long-term needs of the city are,” Mayor Bill Ham said. “My thinking about planning here is … we’re trying to use the citizen’s money to the best of possible scenarios into the future.”
According to City Council documents, staff began to question whether the multi-million-dollar renovation of the complex would be sufficient to serve the city’s 113-officer police division, the rest of the public safety staff and the city’s court.
"We agreed to spend millions of dollars to redo this building and then not add any space to it," former police chief and Ward 8 councilman Tommy Dawson said. "By doing this, we're going to see if it's better to go ahead and do that, or build another building or even try to relocate somewhere else. ... We're going to make sure before we spend millions of dollars that 10 years from now that we're not back in the same hole that we're in now."
The contract approved in 2015 would have only renovated the existing complex. The new study will determine whether a new, larger complex should be built to accommodate the city’s services.
“My guess is the population of Auburn was probably 30 percent of what it is today [when the municipal complex was built in 1976],” Ward 2 councilman Ron Anders said. “The walls of the police department have not expanded. We did take a tour … this building is inadequate to facilitate a properly-run police department.”
Ward 5 councilwoman Lynda Tremaine voted against the resolution. Tremaine said tonight she would support satellite police offices around the city to alleviate the tight spaces at the municipal complex. She also proposed adding on to the rear of the municipal complex.
"I just don't know why we didn't think about this back in July," Tremaine said. "It seems like an afterthought."
In other City Council news, the council:
- Approved a contract with D&J Enterprises Inc., an Auburn-based contracting firm, for a streetscape project along North Ross Street between Magnolia and Glenn Avenues. The project will include a wider, ADA-compliant sidewalk; new street trees; and new street lighting.
- Approved a resolution providing an economic incentive package for Berghoff Precision Machining LP, a new company relocating to Auburn Technology Park West formerly known in city documents as Project Mountain. Berghoff will provide 100 new jobs over the next five years. The firm’s project represents an overall capital investment of almost $34 million.
Duggan announced the opening date for the new Opelika Road Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. The doughnut shop will open May 10, 2016.