Alderman Keith Phelps started last Thursday’s special called meeting of the public safety committee by stating the board wanted to start fresh with new plans for the proposed police station.
“We’ve been talking about this for quite a number of years,” he said. “Certainly different plans have been presented and ideas presented. There’s been a lot that has taken place thanks to the hard work of (A2H’s) Pat Harcourt and Chief (Larry) Lindsey and others. We have had all sorts of advice and suggestions.”
In February 2017, the board voted to move forward with plans to build a much-needed police station to replace the one on East Pleasant which had fallen into disrepair and was unsafe for its occupants.
Over the course of the next year, the board discussed potential locations and settled on the former grammar school property at Church and S. College streets.
As plans were drawn up for the building, the estimated costs for the project rose from $3-4 million to more than $6 million for various reasons, such as the process through which the city would need to apply to the state to have the property converted from a park, thanks to a 1978 grant which restricted its use, as well as asbestos abatement and demolition of the existing structure.
In August 2019, the city applied for grant funding for the building, but didn’t receive enough.
The new plan is different, though.
Instead of using the 4.2-acre grammar school property, city leaders plan to use an 18-acre parcel near H.T. Hackney currently owned by the Industrial Development Board. First proposed as an option in 2017, the ID Board will give the city the land for free.
On Tuesday night, the city approved a resolution allowing Lindsey to apply for a FEMA hazard mitigation grant. If awarded, the grant is expected to fund 75 percent of the new project’s estimated $4.5 million cost. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency would potentially fund 12.5 percent, leaving the city to match the remaining 12.5 percent.
The value of the land can be used as the match, which lowers the city’s out of pocket costs. Mayor Justin Hanson said that cost could be $500,000.
“It’s a well thought-out plan,” Phelps said.
“It would be practical, we’d be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and we’d get a quality building we could be proud of,” said Lindsey. “We could expand in the future, we’re not locked in.”
Other pros for the location, which was the one preferred by former chief Buddy Lewis, include close access to the county’s justice complex and jail.
“It’s just a win-win all the way around,” Lindsey added.
Phelps called the decision could be one of the best financial moves the city had ever made.
“You’re hitting yourself a home run grand slam if you ask me,” he said.
The grant application will be submitted by the city. Hanson said it could be up to six months before a decision is announced.