Costs rise for new police station

Mint Hill could pay about $800,000 more than expected for renovations

by Kara Lopp

Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to build a public parking lot in front of the building.

Renovations to transform Mint Hill’s town hall into its police department are estimated at $1.8 million – about $800,000 more than town officials originally planned to spend.

Town commissioners voted on preliminary plans Thursday, June 21 during a one-day board retreat held at town hall. The retreat cost taxpayers $115, which covered lunch from Mint Hill’s The Hill Bar & Grill, snacks and beverages. By comparison, Matthews spent $3,679.71 for an annual retreat held in Ocean Isle Beach in February.

When Mint Hill voted more than a year ago to build a new town hall, officials were told that the current town hall could be renovated for about $1 million to give the police department a new home. But preliminary cost estimates and plans prepared by Charlotte-based Edifice General Contractors and architects Creech and Associates show the cost of basic renovations to be about $1.6 million, with at least an additional $200,000 needed for design fees and furniture.

Original cost estimates didn’t include adding a parking lot in front of the building, officials said.

But the draft plans approved by commissioners show a public parking lot with at least seven spaces being built on the front corner of the building next to the driveway. Police officers and other department employees will park behind the building in a gated lot accessible with a security card. The parking lot will cost about $50,000 and the fence, likely wrought-iron bars with brick columns, will cost about $40,000, Edifice’s Scott Fandel told commissioners. Bids for the project will be opened by early August, he said.

Town commissioners would need to approve a conditional zoning change to allow parking in front of the building, which is prohibited in the town’s downtown overlay code. Creech and Associates will present additional facade improvement options and costs during a future meeting, John Crawford, a principal with the company, said.

After town officials move into the new town hall building – work is expected to be complete by July 20 – construction will begin to overhaul the current town hall at 7151 Matthews-Mint Hill Road. The town pays $5,800 per month in rent for the police department’s current 5,520-square-foot space at 7200 Matthews-Mint Hill Road.

Preliminary plans

Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to approve the preliminary plans for a new facade and related improvements, but voted 4 to 1 on the front parking lot design. Commissioner Tina Ross voted against the proposal, saying the curve in the driveway creates “blind spots” for drivers and the driveway should be straightened out as the town’s long-range master plan suggests. The move would cost about $100,000, Fandel said, noting that a water line would need to be moved.

“I just think if our long-range plan is to go ahead and straighten that out, why not do it now?” Ross said. “I just think it’s safer. There’s no curve, there’s no blind spot and no worry about people backing into (police) traffic. You could see what was coming.”

According to the draft plans, the breezeway will be closed and the area used as a lobby with a reception desk featuring bullet-resistant glass and walls with fiberglass and steel plates inside them. Administrative offices will be where current town offices are now, with few walls removed. The current council chamber will be used as a conference and training room and the restrooms will be renovated with lockers added. A small conference room will be used for evidence storage and include a sprinkler system. Soundproof interrogation rooms also will be added.

Also included in the plans:
• Pressure wash existing stone facade, possibly using a sealer or paint to protect from elements
• Replace broken window seals
• Repair roof leaks around vents
• Cover stone columns
• Cover “Mint Hill Town Hall” name on front; add seal or emblem on front glass
• Fix cracked, loose bricks

The original proposal called for a four-foot brick wall to be built around the public parking lot on the front, similar to the lot at the under-construction town hall. But several commissioners urged against that idea.

“To me that is a safety issue,” Ross said. “I don’t like that wall at town hall and I don’t want to park back there at night. You don’t know who’s back there.”

Mayor Ted Biggers agreed, saying he’d prefer shrubs or other landscaping to serve as a screen.

“I think this building, with the beautiful front lawn, we want to preserve this,” Biggers said. “If we put a wall out front there, I think it’ll take away from the building.”

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