Council looks to cut cost for public safety complex

Council looks to cut cost for public safety complex

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - With concerns from taxpayers about the increasing price of a proposed public safety complex, Hattiesburg City Council members say they're looking for ways to cut cost.

"Originally it was costing $25 million, and then it jumped up to like $32 million," said Carter Carroll, Hattiesburg City Council president. "Now, it's $38 million, (and) some people are saying $42 million. The thing is, I knew that the first step was to get the police in their temporary building, that that was crucial. That was number one on our mind, and I didn't want to say anything about the cost of the new building until they got into their temporary facility. They've got a very nice facility now. It's so much better than what they were in, so I didn't want them to be a pawn in a political battle and feel like they were the ping pong ball going back and forth. Now that they're in there, I think it's prudent for us as a council to look and see if there (are) ways we can cut cost."

Architect Larry Albert, whose company Albert and Associates Architects is working with the city on the project, said part of the problem is miscommunication about what the city's getting for that money. While most of discussion is about one main building to house the Hattiesburg Police Department and municipal court, Albert said the whole complex cost includes renovating or constructing ten buildings, like the $3.3 million spent to renovate HPD's new, temporary facility.

"When you add them all up, you get to $40 million," Albert said.

Albert said council members only have a limited time to keep those costs at the current price.

Last October, Albert said the police and court building bid for $25,000,700, since the start of 2017, he's seen increased costs for materials like fire sprinkler systems, steel and concrete.

"That price could start to go up pretty significantly based on what we're getting bids in today," he said. "I mean, I've gotten some bids in that I almost, like, screamed at some people about their price being so high."

Albert said he and the city have the same goal of building a quality structure that will last for the lowest possible price, but current costs are only guaranteed through the end of the month.

"Every month we wait after the end April, we're going to see spikes in cost," he said. "We're going to be working against exactly the goal that we've all worked for, and our company's worked hard for that goal."

Albert said from his perspective, the city's made good, cost-saving decisions so far, and is on the right track.

"This is a personal comment, (but) I think every one of you has made the best decisions so far," he said. "Everything that's been done, choosing to accept buildings (and) make them workable in that neighborhood, everything (that's) been done has been done right. The next step, to identify (if) stuff inside the building is right. The next step, to do demo is right. I mean, these things are kind of on a pathway that seems logical to me."

Carroll said he'd like to have a conversation about which buildings to prioritize and which ones to postpone to help save some money on the total cost.