<bt>The City Council voted Tuesday night to move forward on a new police facility after receiving a report from an ad hoc task force.
“We had a presentation from staff and the consultant about all of the sites were considered and decided, for a variety of reasons, that the Duke/Wheeler site is the best alternative,” said Christopher Campagna, the task force convener. “The city owns that property and that would save around $8 million.”
In all, nine different sites were considered. All but two were eliminated early on in the process. The two remaining were a site owned by the Mark Winkler Company and the Duke/Wheeler site where city maintenance facilities are now located.
“The task force did not really look at whether leasing or building a new facility was a better option,” Campagna said. “That is beyond the scope of our mandate from council. That is a good question and could perhaps be better analyzed by the city manager’s office.”
David Frome, a member of the task force, presented the recommendations to council. “We are recommending moving ahead to thoroughly analyze the Duke/Wheeler site because we believe that it is the best alternative available,” Frome said. “It is accessible to the rest of the city; access and the surroundings can be controlled; there is already a service facility for maintaining police vehicles and there is sufficient space for growth,” he said. “The Winkler site is going to be further developed and thus the surroundings would not be as easily controlled and the cost is certainly greater.”
THERE WERE questions about the need for a new facility. “A number of citizens have asked the question about whether we even need such a new facility,” said Councilman Andrew Macdonald.
City manager Philip Sunderland responded: “When we moved into the current public safety center in 1986 or 1987, it was built to accommodate around 360 people. We moved 360 or more into the site the day it opened.
“The needs of the sheriff’s department, the jail and the police department have grown. Now, we need to accommodate more than 500 people and the site on which the public safety center is located won’t do that. We could move people back into that site after renovation but we could not accommodate everyone,” he said.
Frome discussed the reasons why police should be in one rather than two facilities. “Police Chief Samarra spoke to us about the need to have everyone in the same place,” he said. “The city is too small for precincts and there is a tradition here in Alexandria of centralized police activity that has served the city well.”
Mayor William D. Euille supports building a new police facility. “I am convinced that we need a new police facility and this is the first step toward getting one,” he said.
THE COST of the facility is of concern to the council. “I too believe that we need a new police facility,” said councilman Ludwig Gaines. “However, I want to make sure that we do everything we can to ensure that the cost does not spiral out of control. We need to make certain that the cost does not exceed the $50 million that is projected at this time.”
The next step is to discuss the site selection and the facility with the public.
“We are going to begin a series of meetings with various civic associations in January,” said assistant city manager Michelle Evans. “At that time, we will take members of the public through the process that the task force conducted and present all of the information they had.”
Also, city staff and consultants will undertake appropriate traffic studies. “I want to make sure that the community has that data available as soon as possible,” Euille said.
While no decision has been made, council is moving forward to further study the Duke/Wheeler site as the most likely location for a new police facility.