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Ballwin Board puts new police facility discussion on hold

Modifying Ballwin’s Government Center is one option under consideration for development of a new police station.
Modifying Ballwin’s Government Center is one option under consideration for development of a new police station.

By JEFFRY GREENBERG

In its ongoing search for the city’s ideal police facility, the Ballwin Board of Aldermen has narrowed its original options from four to two. 

On Sept. 23, St. Louis-based JEMA architectural consultants John Mueller and Jon Emert presented the Ballwin Board of Aldermen four distinct choices for the development of a future police facility: 

• New construction within Vlasis Park at the current site of the sand volleyball court.

• Renovation and expansion of the former government building at the entrance to Vlasis Park.

• New construction on Kehrs Mill Bend Court in the “backyard” of the Regions Bank located at 14915 Manchester Road; this option would require both land acquisition and street modifications. 

• Renovation and expansion of the current police facility at 300 Park Drive.

From those options, the board selected two for further development by JEMA. On Oct. 14, Mueller and Emert returned to Ballwin City Hall armed with new design concepts for those. 

Eliminated from the list of options were building on the current sand volleyball court and renovating the existing police facility. One of the two remaining choices was further broken out to include two additional options. 

Site B: Developing the former government facility with modifications to achieve a full 28,500 square feet with 51 secured police parking spaces and approximately 17 visitor spaces at a cost of $11.9 million.

“Some of the comments we got from you all is, in terms of the challenges were low visibility from Manchester without significant site work as well as one means of ingress and egress,” Mueller said. 

Site B1: Developing a three-story option for the former government site, allowing it to be more at level with Manchester Road at a cost of $12.9 million.

“It puts a large portion of the police vehicles … underneath the building,” Mueller said. “This raises the top approximately 12 feet, putting the top level approximately on the level of Manchester. So, we get a little better visibility of the building and we get interior, structured parking for the project.  The challenge is we’re adding costs to the building by creating that lower level of parking.” 

Site B2: Developing the area just west of the government site to include a two-story building with a lower level walkout at a cost of  $11.9 million.

“We also looked at another option that we just shared with [City Administrator] Bob [Kuntz] … something he suggested we take a look at,” Mueller said. “It’s the property to the west of the existing government center.  It’s a similar type of layout with two stories and a lower level walkout. The grade on this particular option is a little bit higher than what the existing government center was. It gives you two means of ingress and egress, and it gives you a curved cut onto Manchester as well as a curved cut down to Park Drive. You get slightly fewer secured parking spaces … something that we can probably work out if you need to get some additional parking spaces.

“This particular [site] shows a two-story police station of 28,500 square feet; so approximately 14,250 square feet per floor … the upper level is still going to be lower than Manchester, but it brings us up a little bit more than the existing government center site.”

Mueller noted that there is an asterisk on its $11.9 million price tag because the cost of property acquisition and potential hazardous material abatement is not included.

“There are tanks in that area, hazardous material in that area and there’s also demolition costs for that site. That $11.9 million does not include those three,” Mueller said.

Site C:  Developing the Kehrs Mill Bend Court area with a three-story option at a cost of $12.9 million. This option includes the current Regions Bank site and requires land acquisition.

“… this is again a three-story [option] and when I say three story, the lower level is parking, and the level above that is police. So that is why this is labeled three-story,” Muller said, “The pros are sufficient parking, it does not encroach on any existing park property and has good visibility and accessibility to Manchester Road. The challenges are a portion of this site is not owned by the city, does require that lower level parking structure, and does require the relocation of part of Kehrs Mill Bend Court.”

Alderman Jim Leahy [Ward 3] wasted no time in eliminating option C as his choice. He flatly stated that he is not interested in acquiring property. Leahy also was vehement in another matter. “My personal opinion is, we shouldn’t invest any more money in further studies until we make a decision [about which one option to pursue],” he said.

According to one of the early slides in JEMA’s presentation, the progression they would like to follow in this process is:

1. Site selection: Select the most feasible and best site available to develop the new facility concept design further.

2. Concept design [six weeks]: Develop a site plan, floor plan and building elevations in collaboration with the city.

3. Refine cost opinion [two weeks] Update total project cost opinion based on concept design.

4. Visualization [three weeks]: Develop 3D renderings of the proposed building design.

City Administrator Bob Kuntz cautioned the board not to rush into a decision regarding site selection.

He added that their choices also should consider financial concerns, not just from the outset, but also for add-ons and issues that may become prevalent in the middle-and long-term.

To Mueller and Emert, Kuntz said, “I think you’ve done what we asked you to do.”

Kuntz told the board, “One option that comes to mind is to kick the can a little bit down the road. I think slow but steady might be a good course. The entire police function could operate on an interim basis in the old government center. If you want to move forward, instead of making a commitment tonight, maybe you’ll look at that third option. I don’t know. But it doesn’t appear that we’re ready to make such a big decision with so many questions.”

Moments later, interim Police Chief John Bergfeld was asked about that possibility. 

“We can work with it on a temporary basis … for a couple of years,” he said. On that note, Mayor Tim Pogue noted that Ballwin hasn’t received any Request For Proposals [RFPs] on the old government center. 

Kuntz said that due to the current level of indecision, he has delayed his conversations with the bank regarding possible land acquisition for the Kehrs Mill Bend Court option.

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to delay, but I want you to make a decision you’re comfortable with,” Kuntz said. “There’s no easy answer. You’re looking at a 20- to 30-year commitment no matter what choice you make.” 

The board has chosen four to six weeks as a target to make such a decision before having JEMA continue its four-step process.

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