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Washington police evidence storage building project will be rebid

Here's the site of the new Washington Police Department evidence storage building.
Steve Stein
Here's the site of the planned Washington Police Department evidence storage building.

It's back to the drawing board for the Washington Police Department's new evidence storage building.

The city council voted 5-3 Monday to reject a request by city staff to add $600,000 to the line item for the building from reserves and unused pandemic relief funds in the city's 2024-25 fiscal year budget to cover the cost of construction and $119,000 that is owed to Dewberry Architects.

Because of the rejection, council did not vote on awarding a construction contract.

"That agenda item is now moot," City Administrator Jim Snider said after the rejection vote.

PJ Hoerr had the low base bid of $2,337,400 for the building. Peoria Metro Construction had the low bid of $2,376,900 to have seamless epoxy systems installed on the floor and walls, which was recommended by city staff.

Those dollar figures are about three times higher than construction estimates reported to the council in 2021, and about 21% higher than the $1,918,120 construction estimate by Dewberry in September.

The targeted site for the building, green space just west of the Washington Fire Station off Jefferson Street, does not have utilities. Adding those utilities was cited by Police Chief Mike McCoy as the main reason for the construction cost increase from September.

Federal and state grants will cover much of the cost of construction. The federal grants have two- and four-year expiration dates. Deadlines for using the state grants won't go into effect until after the project is approved by the council.

Council members agreed Monday to rebid the project with hopes of getting bids closer to the $1.9 million budgeted for the building.

McCoy was skeptical that enough cuts could be made to reduce the cost of the project that much.

"We're already at bare bones," he said after the council meeting.

Because of a February fire in a building at Main and Jefferson streets that the police department shares with the public works department to store its evidence, the evidence is being stored at a facility outside Washington at a cost of $2,000 per month until the new evidence building is constructed.

"It's embarrassing that we have to haul our evidence to East Peoria," said council member Brett Adams, who voted for the budget amendment. Council members Mike Brownfield and Bobby Martin III cast the other yes votes.

"This isn't a 'fun' project. We won't get any sales tax revenue from it. But it's vitally important," Martin said.

Council member Brian Butler said he had serious misgivings about adding $600,000 to the city's 2024-25 budget shortly after it went into effect May 1. The $41.4 million budget is the highest in the city's history and 18.9% higher than the 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

"Sure, the money in the budget is there to spend," Butler said. "But sometimes, the city administrator has to say no. And the council has to say no."

Council member John Blundy said he hasn't been convinced the evidence building is a need and not a want.

"And the cost has gone up 300% in three years," he said. "Also, we've got some big unknown expenses coming up soon. We've got to get a new contract with the fire department. That's coming."

Nobody on the council has expressed opposition to a modern, safe storage space for the police department's evidence. But opponents of the budget amendment said Monday they want all avenues explored before they commit to a new multi-million-dollar facility.

Those avenues include a different location for the building, rehabbing the former police/public works building or constructing a new evidence building at the site, or leasing space in the city.

Countryside Banquet & Catering on track to get grant for $139,000 parking lot project

The city has $300,000 budgeted for business improvement grants during the 2024-25 fiscal year. It appears that Kristi Cape, owner of Countryside Banquet & Catering at 659 School St., will get as much as $69,500 of those funds.

Cape received a quote of $139,000 for repair work on her business' parking lot. At last week's committee of the whole meeting, the council gave its informal approval of a grant that would cover 50% of the project cost.

A first reading of a grant agreement was held Monday. The council will vote on the agreement July 1.

Cape originally applied for a grant to help cover the cost of an estimated $389,000 parking lot project, but the council put the request aside in February until more detailed guidelines for business improvement grants could be established.

Summaries of department head reports

Here are highlights of Police Chief Mike McCoy and Deputy Police Chief Jeff Stevens' report Monday to the council:

  • Sgt. Ryan Hunsinger and Officer Ashley Peto entered an apartment that was on fire and removed a resident before firefighters arrived. A neighbor attacked the flames with a fire extinguisher before Hunsinger and Peto arrived, giving them enough time to rescue the resident.
  • Second-shift officers arrested a suspect on a McLean County warrant for possession of a stolen vehicle, and for fighting with police during the arrest. It was the suspect's 13th arrest.
  • Second-shift officers arrested a driver on a warrant and seized a 9mm pistol and marijuana from the suspect's vehicle. The vehicle was spotted on Jefferson Road and the arrest took place on Newcastle Road.
  • A motorist was ticketed for driving 75 mph in the U.S. Route 24 and Nofsinger Road construction zone. That's a 45- mph zone.

Here are highlights of City Engineer Dennis Carr's report:

  • The installation of a storm sewer on Nofsinger Road south of U.S. Route 24 is complete. A section of road on Nofsinger north of U.S. Route 24 needs to be removed so a new storm sewer can be installed. A detour has been set up so the work can be done.
  • Paving work has begun for the Freedom Parkway extension.

Here are highlights of Planning and Development Director Jon Oliphant's report:

  • Contractors are working on sprinklers, framing, concrete and plumbing at the site of the downtown square restaurant project.
  • Staff expects to issue a permit soon for the construction of a building for a snow removal business at 1210 N. Cummings Road.
  • First readings of several business improvement grant agreements could be on the July 1 council meeting agenda.

Here are highlights of Public Works Director Brian Rittenhouse's report:

  • The parking lot at the Washington Fire Station was paved.
  • Paving of the alley next to the Washington Historical Society building on the downtown square has been delayed until construction traffic is reduced.
  • The street sweeper that is believed to be the cause of the February fire in the building shared by the public works and police departments was inspected by the insurance company and street sweeper manufacturer.
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.