HYATTSVILLE – The renovation of 3505 Hamilton Street to become a new Hyattsville police station may cost the city millions more than it originally planned. On Monday, City Administrator Tracey Nicholson and Assistant City Administrator Jim Chandler briefed the city council on the progress of several city-run development projects. Among those presented were the new […]
HYATTSVILLE – The renovation of 3505 Hamilton Street to become a new Hyattsville police station may cost the city millions more than it originally planned.
On Monday, City Administrator Tracey Nicholson and Assistant City Administrator Jim Chandler briefed the city council on the progress of several city-run development projects. Among those presented were the new Pyramid Atlantic renovation, the department of public works (DPW) facility upgrades and renovations, possible developments at the city administration building and the renovations at 3505 Hamilton Street, where the city plans to move the municipal police department.
Among those, the one that caught most council members off guard was 3505 Hamilton. Nicholson, at the meeting, informed the council that the renovation is projected to exceed the original budget estimate by a few million dollars.
“The police service building was a bit of a surprise to us,” Nicholson said. “The original budget estimate was $4.4 million. We contracted with Johnson, Mirmiran, and Thompson, Inc. (JMT) to do an updated proposal. So they are, for construction, the most recent proposal is $7.7 million.”
Nicholson emphasized the most recent proposal for the building is only for construction costs and would not cover furnishings and technology updates.
Numerous members of the council made audible expressions of surprise when Nicholson revealed the new estimated cost. Up until that point, both the city and council were working with numbers from a 2011 Hess study. That study, Nicholson said, was based around a conversion of the former bank into offices only, rather than a police station.
Chandler further explained, saying at the time, the city did not know what they wanted to use the building for, only that they wanted to know the potential cost of renovating it.
“It’s certainly not a surprise, seeing where we’re at now and seeing where we were, that a lot has changed,” he said. “Seeing 3505 was a little bit startling, but as you start to recognize the assumptions made on the capital side funding, you realizeit is not an appetizing number, but it helps to understand why.”
Councilman Kevin Ward expressed concern with the findings of the original study and the new estimate presented to the council. He said he is curious if the building is being designed to fit an office, when the city wants a police station.
“Is it fair to say that, at least with respect to 3505, that what we got from the Hess study was sort of just flawed from the beginning for what we decided to use it for,” he asked. “I’m not asking in an accusatorial way. It sounds like they’re designing it to be an office space and we’re going to use it for (a police station.)”
Lesley Riddle, the director of public works, said whether the estimate provided by Hess in 2011 was right or wrong for the city’s current desired use, they gave the city what it asked for.
“Saying that it was bad or good is indifferent. They gave us the information we requested,” she said.
Chandler said another large reason for the increase in the estimate that is the city went into the project without a true understanding of the issues the building had.
“I don’t think anyone had remotely any understanding of the condition of the buildings,” he said. “There was no documented detail about what we’re actually dealing with.”
The overall potential cost of the entire project is also a major red flag for the council members. Councilmen Thomas Wright, Patrick Paschall and Joseph Solomon all expressed concern about the cost.
“I guess the simple question is can we afford this,” Wright said.
Ron Brooks, the city’s treasurer, said the city could likely afford the heavy increase in cost, but it could possibly chance future projects. Brooks said he looked at some “worst case scenario(s)” to calculate the cost to the city and said they will likely need to obtain a $14.1 million loan to cover both the police renovation and the current DPW project.
“That would increase debt service,” he said. “Obviously our bond-to-debt is right around $8.8 million. This would kick up bond-to-debt to somewhere right around $23.6 million. That’s about a half a million dollars in new debt service.”
Brooks further explained the city could take on that amount of debt, but it could potentially prevent the city from meeting other growing operation expenditures and other development projects.
“We could make this work, but it would put us pretty much at capacity. Not so much on what we can borrow, but certainly from a budgetary perspective,” he said.
Both Nicholson and Police Chief Douglas Holland said the police are going to work on seeing what in their current office can be transferred to the new one to keep furnishing and finishing costs down.
However, Councilwoman Paula Perry is not convinced even this estimate will show the city how much the overall project will cost. She said, from her experience, the old buildings in Hyattsville are full of unexpected expenses that will keep the bill rising.
“With any kind of construction, especially on an older building, you can say it is going to cost ‘x’ amount of dollars, but you never know and you can expect the cost to go up in overruns,” she said.
The city said it will spend more time on this issue and will find a date to hold a work session on the options the city has moving forward.