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New Washington police evidence storage building called 'bare bones' and too expensive

Here's the site of the proposed new evidence storage building for the Washington Police Department. The site is off Jefferson Street, west of the Washington Fire Station.
Steve Stein
Here's the site of the proposed new evidence storage building for the Washington Police Department. The site is off Jefferson Street, west of the Washington Fire Station.

The cost of a proposed new evidence storage building for the Washington Police Department has soared past the $2 million mark.

That figure caught the attention of Washington City Council members, who said Monday they understand the importance of the police department having a modern, safe space to store evidence, but would like to find ways to lower the price of the building even though much of the cost is covered by grants.

Complicating matters is a fire early this year in the building at Main and Jefferson streets where the police department formerly stored its evidence. The department shares the building with the Public Works Department.

Police Chief Mike McCoy said his department is spending $2,000 monthly plus transportation costs to store its evidence in a building outside Washington while the Main and Jefferson building is being repaired.

"What we were using to store evidence was unacceptable before the fire. Now it's really unacceptable," McCoy said. "The new evidence building is sorely needed."

Council will decide June 17 which bid to accept for construction of the new evidence building, which is proposed to be built on green space to the west of the Washington Fire Station off Jefferson.

It was reported Monday that Peoria-based PJ Hoerr submitted the lowest base bid at $2,337,400, just edging out Peoria Metro at $2,364,900 among four bidders.

But when seamless epoxy systems on the floor and walls of the building were added to the project instead of the general floor and wall finishes in the base bid, Peoria Metro came in at $2,376,900 to PJ Hoerr's $2,383,400 among three bidders.

City staff recommended that the epoxy systems should be added to the project. But in a straw poll Monday, five of eight council members favored going with the PJ Hoerr's base bid.

"If we vote for that, we should sit down with PJ Hoerr and see if we can make some changes to the evidence building that would cut into or eliminate the $356,000 the city would be contributing to the project," said Mayor Gary Manier.

Also on council's plate June 17 will be a proposed amendment to the city's 2024-25 fiscal year budget that would add $600,000 to the budgeted amount for the evidence building to cover the bid award and $119,000 owed to Dewberry Architects of Peoria.

The $600,000 includes $356,722 from budget reserves and $243,278 from a pandemic relief grant.

Council member Brian Butler criticized the rising cost of the evidence building and the need for a budget amendment.

Butler said he put together a cost timeline for the evidence building project. He found that $840,000 was originally budgeted in the city's 2021-22 fiscal year, and the number has grown to $1.9 million in the current 2024-25 fiscal year.

He also pointed out that council recently approved the city's 2024-25 budget, which is the largest budget in city history ($41.4 million) and an 18.9% increase over the 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

"A month into the new budget year, we're being asked to spend another $600,000," he said. "That's disappointing. That's not the way a business or a household operates."

Council member John Blundy repeated his concerns that not all options were explored for the evidence building, including renovating the current evidence building or constructing a new evidence building at the site of the current one.

McCoy said in his pitch to the council that a new evidence building has been on his radar since 2019, when he first was hired by the city.

After Chamlin & Associates, an Ottawa-based engineering firm, examined the current evidence building in 2021, it said the city "should consider building a new facility."

An initial design by Dewberry for a new evidence building resulted in a $5.2 estimated price tag in August. The cost was trimmed to an estimated $1.9 million a month later for what McCoy called a bare bones project.

City gets Safe Routes to School grant, police rescue woman, Freedom Parkway recreation trail is done

Here are highlights of Washington Planning & Development Director Jon Oliphant's report to the council Monday:

  • A sidewalk project on Grant Street in District 50 was awarded a $247,710 Safe Routes to School grant by the Illinois Department of Transportation. An Elgin Avenue sidewalk project in District 51 did not receive funding. Across the state, 47 projects are being funded out of 143 applications.
  • Ten applications were submitted by the May 29 deadline for the city's business improvement grant program. The applications will be reviewed by city staff and discussed at next week's committee of the whole meeting.
  • Iron workers are installing the main stairway at the downtown square restaurant site and rebar and plastic are being installed for first-floor concrete.
  • Here are highlights of McCoy and Deputy Chief Jeff Stevens' report to the council Monday:
  • A motorist was ticketed for driving 60 miles per hour in a 35 MPH zone on Washington Road near Gilman Street.
  • Washington Police Department members of the Central Illinois Emergency Response Team participated in the well-publicized arrest of a Pekin man who had firearms and pipe bombs at his residence.
  • Police Administrative Support Specialist Becky Harper read a report from Nebraska about a person with a weapons offense and threats to police possibly traveling to Illinois. She did some research and the discovered the suspect had Tazewell County connections. The suspect was arrested in East Peoria.
  • Responding to a report of smoke inside a structure, officers found a woman who was sleeping inside and carried her out, likely saving her life.

Here are highlights of Washington City Engineer Dennis Carr's report to the council Monday:

  • The new recreation trail on the south side of Freedom Parkway is nearly complete.
  • Traffic control has been set up on Cruger Road for a lane closure that's needed for the Nofsinger Road realignment project.
  • The start of the Catherine Road reconstruction project has been delayed until the first week of July.
  • Residential sidewalk and curb replacement will begin this week. Ten residents are participating in the 70/30 cost sharing program with the city.

School resource officer contract approved, WCHS unified track team honored

Council approved two items related to Washington Community High School on Monday:

  • A three-year contract with WCHS for a school resource officer. The city and school will share expenses for the officer.
  • A resolution honoring the WCHS unified track team for its fourth-place finish and the 4x100 relay team's first-place finish at the state meet last month at Eastern Illinois University. June 3-9 was declared "WCHS Unified Track Team and Unified Physical Education Program Week."

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.