Tupelo police headquarters cost rises again; mayor says no

I'm a journalist focused on government, policy, politics and people.
I find what matters and bird dog it like nobody's business.

SHELTON

SHELTON

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Estimated costs for a new Tupelo police headquarters continued to climb Monday as the price tag reached up to $11 million, $1 million more than the mayor said he will accept.

City Council discussions Monday about big-ticket city expenses revealed the price increase for the Tupelo Police Department’s planned new home, 19 percent more than $8.9 million named less than a month ago.

This new cost increase is the second time Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre has informed council members of higher costs for the long-anticipated city project. He and architect William Lewis of JBHM Architecture told council members Feb. 25 the project’s estimated cost would be $10.1 million after the original cost estimate didn’t account for the city’s future law enforcement needs for the next quarter century or so.

Aguirre said Monday the new price range of $10.5 million to $11 million includes expenses of underground utilities and expanded office space not factored into prior estimates.

“We didn’t know we’d have to put that in our budget,” Aguirre told the council.

Council members and Mayor Jason Shelton have previously said they want to provide enough resources for police to effectively protect the city of about 35,000 for more than 25 years. However, some are unwilling to accept this new cost estimate.

Shelton said after the work session Monday that the facility’s total costs for construction, furnishings, and any other expense should not stretch past $10 million.

“Ten million dollars doesn’t mean $10 million and one cent,” Shelton said.

Currently, Tupelo’s police department operates out of three buildings – a main building on Front Street and two others on Court Street. The new facility would unite most police operations on a four-acre property at Front and Franklin streets and add modern equipment and infrastructure.

Plans to build a new police facility stalled as city leaders waited to acquire the $1.5 million property to build the headquarters seized by federal agencies as part of a contraband cigarette operation.

Available funds for the project total $5.3 million, including previous bonds issued. The city will likely finance the rest of the project.

Shelton and the City Council will meet during another work session to discuss the most recent details on the police project, including price. Council President Nettie Davis said she could support up to $11 million for the project but not all colleagues agree.

Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell agrees with the mayor on the $10 million price cap. “We’ve already increased the price,” he said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com