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Columbus looking at $320k for police department expansion

After receiving five bids, the Town of Columbus is looking at approximately $320,000 to expand its police department. 

Columbus Town Council met Thursday, May 19 and discussed the bids, which were opened on May 12. The town is considering adding on to its police department, located adjacent to town hall, which was formerly a single-family home until the town converted it to its police headquarters.

Architect John Walters presented the bids to council, which ranged from base bids of $285,778 – $393,120. The town had eight contractors request drawings and five who submitted bids.

Dunlap Construction submitted the lowest base bid at $285,778.

The town included alternates to the base bid for the project, including the possibility of paving, removing siding and replacing with cement siding to match the addition, covering for the block and refinishing the hardwood floors in the existing building.

To complete the base addition and all four alternates the bids ranged from $310,170 – $431,242.

The current police department has no evidence storage area, only one restroom and no rear exit to the building. Plans are for the addition to allow for multiple exits as well as a second restroom with a shower and a stairwell to the basement, which will include a secure location for the department’s armory, evidence storage and a vehicle bay, particularly for motorcycle storage.

The Columbus Police Department moved from the basement of town hall to the previous four-bedroom house in 2010.

Walters said two of the bidders were a good bit higher but the other three bids were within six percent of each other. He said he has worked with TC Strictland, the second lowest bidder and requested information from Dunlap Construction regarding recent projects. Dunlap Construction recently renovated Saluda City Hall and Police Department.

Columbus Town Manager Tim Barth discussed the financing needed for the project.

Barth said he’d hoped the bids would come in a little less than they did so the town could finance the project out of its fund balance, and over the course of several years build the fund balance back up. Barth said to take the entire amount out of the town’s fund balance wouldn’t put the town in a bad situation but it would take it lower than he and the finance officer were comfortable with, so he suggested financing more than half of the project.

Barth said he, finance officer Kathy Gregory and Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield think alternates two and three should be considered, which include the siding and covering the block.

“If you’re going to expand a building it needs to look similar,” Barth said.

Barth said taking the two alternates into consideration and the low bid from Dunlap, the total price would be $296,062, which does not include any contingency or construction inspection expenses.

Barth said the architect is going to be inspecting the project some when with a construction project this large, he suggested the town consider a project manager to ensure the contractor is doing things they are supposed to be doing.

Adding an approximate $24,000 to the $296,000 amount, the town is looking at a $320,000 budget including contingency and additional inspections, according to Barth.

He suggested Columbus take $120,000 out of its fund balance and the remainder financed through a bank.

As of June 30, 2015, Columbus had a 58.2 percent available fund balance, according to the town’s audit report.

The town had available for spending $640,878 at the end of last fiscal year. Taking $120,000 from its fund balance would leave the town with more than $520,000 in fund balance.

Barth said according to a preliminary quote the town could take out a $200,000 loan for 10 years, with annual debt service payments starting at $25,000 per year and ending at $21,000 in the final year. Looking at how Columbus’ fund balance has grown over the last 10 years, Barth said the average change in fund balance is almost $45,000 per year so if the town is putting away that much extra per year they could cover the $25,000 in debt service and still have some left over to grow its fund balance.

Furnishing the police department addition was also discussed with Barth estimating it will take between $10,000 and $15,000 in furnishings, hopefully less, he said. The town plans to pay for furnishings with seizure money the police department receives.

Council asked Barth to research the two lowest bidders and discuss which bidder to choose during a budget work session held on Tuesday, May 24. Council awarded the bid to Dunlap in a split vote decision Tuesday. Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre broke a tie vote in favor of Dunlap. Council members Mark Phillips and Josh Denton voted in favor of Dunlap while members Margaret Metcalf and Richard Hall were opposed.