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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 04 2014

WF commission to vote on bids for new police/city hall complex

WEST FARGO – The West Fargo City Commission will be asked to approve nearly $8.5 million in bids Monday to build a new police/City Hall complex.

The project will add 34,653 square feet of space on open land east of the current 12,545 square feet the police department and city offices now share at 800 4th Ave. E., City Administrator Jim Brownlee said.

It will also include 24,522 square feet of underground garage space for police vehicles.

The space is badly needed, officials said.

“We’ve got people in file rooms and closets,” Brownlee said.

City staff recommended the general contractor bid go to Gast Construction of Fargo for $5,875,000; the mechanical bid to Cote Mechanical of Casselton for $1,427,459; and the electrical bid to RBB Electric of Grand Forks for $1,161,900. The bids total $8,464,359, documents show.

If the bids are approved, Brownlee said the goal is to break ground this spring, and in the next 12 months build the single-story police department building and its underground garage.

When that is finished, another six months of work would be done to convert former police department spaces to City Hall and municipal court uses, Brownlee said.

That puts the project’s completion into late 2015.

The City Hall and police department would be tied together by a glassed-in entry hall, Brownlee said.

City leaders wanted to bid the project last summer but held off to get a better bidding climate, Mayor Rich Mattern said.

Brownlee said that move paid off. Bids came in just below the cut-off set by officials to pay for the project.

More staff, more space

The police department may fill its new space quickly. It now has 41 officers but will have three more by May, Assistant Chief Mike Reitan said. There are also 10 civilian staff members.

In six to seven years, West Fargo is expected to grow from about 30,000 people now to 46,000.

To serve that population, Reitan said the department may need as many as 80 sworn officers and more support staff.

“At this point, we have 24 officers using five desk spaces. That’s for the patrol group, and they are on shifts,” Reitan said. “As far as our investigators, right now if we were to add an investigator we wouldn’t have a spot for them to sit. The civilian (staffer) we will be adding this year, right now we don’t have a desk space for them.”

He said the underground garage will keep the department’s vehicles and their high-end computer systems from being affected by the area’s extreme cold.

More space will make officers more efficient. Plus, interview rooms used by the public will be more private and separate from where prisoners and suspects are brought into the building, Reitan said.

When the project is complete, Mattern said the city’s information technology, inspections and permitting departments will be brought back to City Hall from the two separate locations where they are now housed.

The need for more space is a good challenge for a growing community to have, Mattern said.

“I’d rather have this sort of challenge than laying off employees, seeing people move away and unemployment going up,” he said. “So, there’s a lot of positives here.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583