By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Plans released Tuesday for a new Tupelo police facility showed an estimated cost of $10.1 million, a $1.3 million increase in the projected price from a week ago.
Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre and the architect for the proposed new police headquarters met City Council members to discuss plans for the project that has remained on Tupelo’s back burner for years.
Preliminary plans for the facility shared in the council work session included a 37,504-square-foot building, more than 5,000 square feet larger than the initial plan.
The cost revealed at the meeting was new to the council but expectations for something larger and more expensive for the police force of about 100 wasn’t.
“I don’t know that they knew the price, but a couple of council members wanted something to project our growth over the next 20 years,” said Don Lewis, Tupelo chief operations officer.
Council members didn’t balk at the idea of paying more for a modern law enforcement facility.
“I support this,” council Vice President Mike Bryan said. “It’s long overdue.”
Plans for a new facility date to two city administrations ago, when city leaders issued bonds for a new police headquarters but never took action. Instead, city leaders waited years for a federal investigation related to a contraband cigarette operation ended.
Tupelo police assistance with the FBI and other entities resulted in the city acquiring $1.5 million and four acres of land at Front and Franklin streets. Currently, the city has about $5.3 million for a new facility and may issue more bonds for the remainder of the cost.
William Lewis with JBHM Architecture said the first preliminary proposal reflected a facility that would allow for limited expansion. The new plan anticipates a facility intended to meet needs of an anticipated police force needed when the city’s roughly 35,000 population grows by 16 percent.
The council appears interested in paying more now for facility anticipated to suit city law enforcement until 2034 or longer.
“We tightened the belt but then were told to loosen it up a little,” Lewis said.
Aguirre said he feels satisfied with the plans.
“We met with the division heads in the department to come up with something that’s suitable for the needs of Tupelo now and in the future,” he said.