A new public safety center is in the works for the corner of Hwy. 42 and North Kilgore Street, replacing aging facilities and anticipating growth during the next 50 years.

It’s a large undertaking, and city leaders moved into Phase 3 of the project on Tuesday, preparing preliminary designs for an estimated 34,000 square-foot headquarters for both police officers and firefighters.

A key task in the project (utilizing the same property as Kilgore Police Department’s current building, half-a-century old) is to beat the typical $400 or $500 per-square-foot cost for this type of facility. With an optimal target between $300 and $350 per square foot, a firm expense awaits more strategizing.

“It’s going to be dependent on the square foot cost,” Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said, estimating a rough pricetag in the $10 to $12 million range. Getting that cost down per square foot, “We’re endeavoring to do something that others have not been successful at doing.

“We’re making sure to build a building that will last and stand the test of time and that we can all be proud of while at the same time our goal with this project is to deliver the most efficient and effective space usage and space-saving designs so as to save the taxpayers money.”

Built in 1968, the current police department HQ has lasted a solid 50 years, and the new project’s first phase saw city employees evaluate the existing facilities with the help of an architect – considering the current conditions and whether the building could be upgraded to meet ADA standards and future needs.

It was a definitive ‘no,’ Selleck said. Just from an ADA standpoint, it would be “very difficult” to bring facilities into compliance with accessibility regulations.

Meanwhile, “They’re undersized, they’re aged, the systems in them are failing, which is part of what drove us to hire someone to look into this,” he added. So, Phase 2: “If we’re going to be looking at new facilities or replacing facilities, what size do they need to be? What is needed today and what is needed for future growth so this facility can serve us for the next 50 years?”

With those questions being answered, Phase 3 moves the project to a preliminary design stage. Notably, Selleck said, the city’s planners aren’t skipping straight to final design.

Rather, “This will allow us an opportunity to make sure we’ve got everything right,” he said. One or more builders will be consulted, ensuring there are no errors or oversights in the design, aimed at avoiding cost overruns later. “It’s the same methodology as every other project we have. We start with an original design or plan, we go through preliminary design to ensure that’s the right plan and we don’t go through with final design until we know it’s the right project with the right overall concept.”

The current target is to have Phase 3 and enough of Phase 4 completed to have solid estimates in-hand ahead of an anticipated November 2020 bond election.

“We’re going to be working very diligently to be sure this design stays within the budget that we’re setting for it,” Selleck said. “It’s easy to let niceties and amenities drive up a budget. Our target with this, like every project we do, is to bring it within – and hopefully under – budget.

If that funding option is successful, “This is probably a two- to three-year project. The site that has been selected is the existing site: this project involves demolishing that facility in stages and relocating existing staff so that construction can begin. There’s a lot of moving pieces.”

At the same time, the facilities study found Fire Station No. 1 (located behind Kilgore PD) is also at the end of its effective lifespan.

Likewise, “It’s no longer located in the most appropriate space,” Selleck added. “With three stations and with the addition of I-20 frontage, which accounts for a great deal of our service calls, it’s going to be necessary to move that further north in order to serve the north-reaching arms of our city.”

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