The Alexandria City Council is moving ahead on a plan to build a police department facility separate from the sheriff's office.
At its Monday meeting, the council unanimously approved a preliminary budget and space plans for the project.
It voted to move ahead with the schematic design of the facility, which would be built on city land near the new county jail that's under construction on 3rd Avenue West.
The steps are part of several milestones that need to be approved for the police project to proceed.
The new figures call for a 24,000-square-foot building - 3,000 square feet less than the space it planned to occupy under a joint law enforcement center (LEC) plan that the Douglas County Board rejected in September because of cost concerns.
The project was also trimmed from $5.6 million to $4.8 million.
The city's LEC task force considered an alternate site - remodeling the second floor of the old Central school, which sits above the present LEC on 7th Avenue. The city's architectural team estimated that would cost about $2 million without a garage or parking.
Other drawbacks included providing adequate access to the second floor, repairing the roof, trying to incorporate three different kinds of mechanical systems and trying to fit in all the department's needs in a 16,000-square-foot space, according to the architects. Council members were also leery about spending $2 million to improve a building that the city doesn't own. The county owns it.
At an LEC task force meeting held before the regular council meeting, Police Chief Rick Wyffels said he wouldn't like to see his department on the second floor or splitting his department on two floors.
During the public comment period of the council meeting, Marv Martinson of Alexandria questioned the city's decision to build a new facility instead of fixing up what it has been using. "Is that being a wise steward of taxpayers' money?" he asked.
Council members said that the $2 million estimate to re-model the second floor of the LEC was a minimum figure. It didn't address parking issues or garage space, they said.
Martinson asked why the city and county didn't work together to share space next to the new jail. Council member Sara Carlson said the city tried hard to work with the county on such a plan but was unsuccessful.