Note from Ivan on the Cop Shop II

[This letter was sent by Police Advisory Committee Member Ivan Krpan to City Hall. Reprinted with permission.]

October 27, 2008

To: Mayor Kris Povlsen and the members of the DeKalb City Council.

My concern is plenty with regards to the construction of the new police station. As a member of the Police Advisory Committee on the police station, I am afraid things may be getting out of hand.

It is also important to remember that as a committee, we were advised that several matters were not our concern with regards to the station.

1. Location. We were instructed that the Lincoln Hwy. site was set in rock.
2. Architect. That the architect was chosen.
3. Construction of the station. Set by staff to be Construction Manager for the City of DeKalb.

I have thought long and hard about this since I made my recommendation and still feel that Chief Feithen, the police officers for DeKalb, and in fact this community need this new station and desperately. The problems that I have is that after thinking about certain matters and seeing how this economy has become a center point of discussion not just locally but on a global level, I believe we need to become a little more focused ourselves.

I have come to believe that there can be better sites found but not in the time frame that would be conducive to starting this station. I do however feel that the City of DeKalb should immediately replace the funds spent on this property with finding and putting up for sale property that the city currently holds. When the police move into their new station, the city will have an overabundance of office space. Consolidation of those spaces and immediate liquidation is essential. We also have to make sure that no additional staff is budgeted for in the upcoming years and current staff will have to have their current roles and effectiveness for our city evaluated.

I believe we may have gone about the architect in a wrong manner. We should have set a price for the project and said that this is all we have at this time. We need to put out the needs and demands that our police department requires now and into the future in the way of needs and growth and allow one or more design firms present a station to us within our perimeters. I am just having a bad feeling allowing one architectural firm telling us that this is the way it has to be. I would like to see the competition for the work on this station is at its highest level, from beginning to end.

Construction of the station should not be in the way of a Construction Manager. The problem that I have with this especially with times the way they are currently is that in essence, we are telling the Construction Manager (CM) that we want the building to come in for an agreed upon price and that’s exactly what he will do barring any change orders. I believe that the taxpayer can get a better deal and more for their dollar if this project was to go the way of a bid from a General Contractor. Sharpened pencils and the ability to have more locals involved in the project is also a benefit from this. This community does have at least four General Contractors (GC) who are very able to bring in this project, contrary to what staff may be saying. These GC’s, in fact, use many local subcontractors and suppliers and could easily make a substantial difference in the end cost of this project.

Another concern that I have had in the past few weeks is trying to come to realization of 56,000 square feet of space. The closest I could come to is the new Schnuck’s grocery store which is said to be around 53,000 square feet, 3,000 square feet short of the proposed station. I’ve taken personal time to walk the building from corner to corner and this was just in the public accessible area. I would like to go on record saying that this is a lot of space in fact huge. This really has me concerned with the choice of the architect and his suggestions for the space truly required for the station. I ask each of you to walk Schnuck’s and get a feel of 53,000 square feet.

I do fully believe that the square footage can be cut down and if truly designed by an architectural firm that fully utilizes the entire square footage of building to its maximum, our police department would have what they need and desire and the taxpayers would have less to pay for this project.

As I had told the council when the committee made its recommendation, it is shameful that in the past 8 years that no council had set up a budget line for the construction of this station. Now, in the eleventh hour, we are looking how to finance this station when it’s been known for 8 plus years that this was going to eventually happen. However this station is funded, safeguards need to be installed that funds for the purpose of this station are to be used for this station and this station only. I’m not excited to see monies put into the general fund while hoping to see that staff directs those dollars in the correct direction.

I would also like the Police Advisory Committee to be able to review the drawings once the initial concept is drawn before they go to final drawing. It is very important that our police department receives the tools they need to perform their duties in this community and this station is one of the biggest tools they are in need of but we at the same time need to do everything possible to bring this project in for a price that this community can afford.

Thank you,
Ivan H. Krpan

Questions: Were the pre-set conditions put upon the Police Advisory Committee the right thing to do? Why or why not?

21 thoughts on “Note from Ivan on the Cop Shop II”

  1. Ivan,
    A couple of questions and then some comments:

    I’ve heard tell about excess property the city owns, asked about it, and was told that main plot is the land next to Schnuck’s for the potential fire station. Does the city own other land that it could sell in today’s market?

    Wasn’t the space consideration part of the mandate of the committee on which you sat? If so, how, why did this figure come up and how, why was it approved?

    I also thought another precondition was that the station must be north of the tracks? Is this so?

    Has the Chief seen and responded to your suggestions?

    On, Yinn’s questions. I agree with the implicit answer: it was the wrong thing to do to set the conditions on construction and the architect. As I’ve learned from watching the school thingie design, construction, funding, architect are all part of an integrated planning package.

    But what is the implication of Ivan’s broader comments? Do we start over and delay another two years? I guess what I’m asking Ivan is what parts of his concerns can be handled now without further delaying construction and what parts require going back to the drawing board?

    who on the police station does NOT have the strong feelings either way that he had on the high school

  2. As a former resident and having lived adjacent to the Schnuck’s property (and being involved in the discussions about its development), the small acre or so that is referenced is to be set aside for a fire station. It was my understanding (but I found a lot of things about that development that were to our understanding really weren’t) that the use of that land is only for a fire station and if not so developed, reverts back to the land owner. Ivan is a community resource and treasure and I hope DeKalb holds people like he, Mac, yinn and others who come here in such regard.

  3. I’m not sure what the city owns with regards to real estate anymore. I do know that they have been in a buying frenzy the last few years and would appreciate seeing a list of land that staff feels that they could get rid of especially for the purpose of making that land productive once again with regards to real estate taxes.

    The land next to Schnucks as I understand is to revert back to the owner if the city does not use it for the purpose of a fire station which ends up being a whole nuther discussion.

    The architect was chosen prior to the Police Adisory Committee meeting as they had already been researching and discussing the needs of the station with the Chief. The first thing we did as a committee was to view the video presentation and then basically toured the station to see the current conditions. The current station uses about 17,500 square feet right now. Has I said earlier, not all of the space being used is really designed right for todays needs.

    But, what if we took the 17,500 and redesigned the space for yesterdays station to function for today? I know the 17,500 is not enough square footage for todays station and the departments needs. We have to remember that there are federal and state mandates that the department must adhere to along with the fact that we have new positions (K-9) for one, women officers, the need for more paper work, the need for longer storage capacity for evidence and complete separation requirements for men, women and juveniles.

    I did forward a copy to Chief Feithen also asking him to walk the space at Schnucks before getting too mad at me. That is a lot of space friends. It has to be cleaned and maintained once its built.

    The architect sat with the committee and we discussed the needs of the department. Office space, communications room and their needs, locker room facilities, holding cells which have to basically be dedicated for men, women and juveniles. Evidence room, interrogation rooms, meeting rooms, Sally port (secured facilities for delivery and drop off of prisoners), storage for police equipment, cars, motorcycles, bikes along with weapons storage and the shooting range. The architect has a prescribed template for room sizes, hallways, and space for what is required. Almost like taking a building block set and moving blocks around until you get all of the required space needs in the drawing.

    It is also my understanding that due to lot constraints, this station would have a second floor which would be dedicated for the investigative (detectives) branch of the department and their support staff. Without seeing the plan, I can’t tell you if the entrance foyer is 20 square feet in size or 2,000 sqauare feet in size. Would this building be more efficient if all were on one floor? I’m not sure without looking at the plan.

    I still stand by my assertion that if this building is designed correctly and takes into consideration the needs of the department today and tomorrow, 35,000 to 40,000 square should be very effective for the station. I have a very difficult time seeing this community hit 60,000 population especially when we are currently seeing a small exodus of people from DeKalb and DeKalb County as they head back closer shorten drive times to work.

    A reduction of 16,000 square foot is right around a $5,000,000.00 reduction in what we as a community would have to ante up for the station. Asking architects to compete against each other for the right to build this station isn’t wrong at all, many architects are hungry also. Local General Contractors are capable of building this station and DeKalb could adopt Sycamore’s 5% rule which would allow the council to help a local contractor get the work.

    Finally Herb, we do not start over. Either this architect can do what we are asking or we put the information out for other architects to bid. This could be accomplished for a late Spring start if it is pushed through. Even going to more of a design build format would definitely make precast a possibility for the majority of this building which would cut construction time and if designed correctly, save additional dollars.

    We do want to have a good looking building but we don’t need angles, curves, bays, extra corners etc. All of these add $$$$$ to the cost. Simplify the construction of the building to save dollars and in more times you end up with more efficient floor space and design just enough to have a fine looking building. Remember, it’s what happens inside the building that matters the most. My feelings still very much weigh in on having it built and built now. It can be done and brought in close to the Chief’s preferred timeline give a little either way.

  4. Thanks Ivan for your explanation. Unlike the high school issue in which I did inform myself and was a strong advocate, I was initially neutral on the police station.

    Your work and your posts were very influential in my thinking on this one and your changing on the issue left me confused.



  5. I don’t think the city can sell the future fire station property to anybody because of the agreement with the developer, so it’s a moot point. In any case, the south side of town is going to require a fire station similar to #3 in order to replace the woefully-small #2 at some point sooner rather than later (and well within the payment schedule for the police station). Having only one ambulance south of the tracks doesn’t make any sense and we will probably get hurt by this if nothing is done.

    The city created a public safety building fund at the last meeting and the money from whatever mess of taxes and fees will be put in that fund instead of the general fund. I would imagine that as with the other funds, if the city wants to transfer money out of that fund back into the general fund, it would require council approval (highly unlikely while payments are still being made).

    About other city properties. IIRC the most recent ones are in the TIF district and were bought with TIF money, so if they are sold, do the proceeds return to the TIF? In that case it’s not going to make any real difference since it couln’t be used for the police station anyway. Push the issue during whatever next PAC meeting and get an answer.

    Something that also crossed my mind about the police station construction and why they may be trying to keep it “close to the chest” is security. Things like evidence storage and processing, prisoner lockup, interview rooms and so on need to be very secure and the police cannot afford any security design problems. These areas are sensitive and the fewer civilians that have knowledge of their inner workings once it is constructed, the better. This probably would have been something decided on in closed session (and would genuinely be allowed since it is a security matter). Just something to keep in mind.

  6. I had a conversation with someone who flipped out upon hearing the planned location of the new police station because of water. This person told me that the NIU parking garage began to sink as they started building it and that NIU’s library could not be built as originally planned. The size had to be scaled back. Just on the other side of the railroad tracks is the Kish River. The railroad tracks are OK according to this person because they are built up. This person also reminded me that the back end of the parking lot of Yen Ching floods frequently. The suggestion from this person was that a better place to put the police station would have been where Auto Bath was but that is too late.

    I do want to mention that there is Watson Crick that flows underneath Carroll Ave. and Normal Rd. Maybe it is that water that had something to do with the story I heard about construction problems? I do recall some structural issues with constructing that science building on Normal Rd. called Faraday West. If I remember correctly, those problems might have been something about trying to put in the foundation when the weather got colder than desired??

    Anyway, I am guessing someone took into consideration the soil and water when selecting the Lincoln Highway site?

  7. Not enough room at the Autobath site. I’m not sure there is enough room at the proposed Lincoln Highway site as it goes but they supposedly have an option for or are securing an option to purchase the next house east.
    This is an option for more land where Autobath site doesn’t have an option.

    I believe the retention pond for the police station site would be incorporated to the rear of the lot and once built should eliminate many problems. Ponds only work for so much water at one time however. It wouldn’t be good to see a flooded police station would it?

    I miss the Autobath.

  8. I have no idea how a retention pond would fit into the site, and I have no idea what a retention pond would do to the railroad bed that close, if anything. There will need to be a parking lot, too.

    I thought the AutoBath plan included buying up the houses to the west and Subway in the future. Now I am trying to remember what order the AutoBath, the Microsolutions building, the Subway, and the houses are in but I will look the next time I drive past there.

    If there was a much bigger site available, there could be a large building with a larger jail that DeKalb could rent out space to the county for their overflow. Only the county would win in that scenario, probably not taxpayers.

    Where things are inside a building and how they will be kept (i.e. the evidence storage) does not have to be public but at least a list of everything that is planned to go in there would be very helpful as to figuring out why it has to be so big.

    Mac has the total cost of $20 million on his site. I guess that includes the $3 million spent on acquiring the property, which I thought was already included in the price tag. So, we went from:

    $11 million
    $17 million
    $20 million

    It is past time to tell the architect to stuff it and go jump in the Kish River.

    OK, the 40-year payment plan idea needs to be stuffed. Someone please check my math. For a $20,000,000 bond repayment spread out over 40 years at 5%, the total cost goes to $46,000,000,000 with more than 55% of the cost being interest? A $20,000,000 repayment spread over 20 years turns into a $31,600,000 building?

    A $11,000,000 building paid back in 20 years turns into a $17,000,000 building? A $11,000,000 building paid back in 40 years turns into a $25,400,000 building?

    The key is truly the COST. What would help the taxpayers the most is to make sure there is no overspending on the COST.

    This is not rocket science, just simple math.

    (If you want to be scared on Halloween, the payback on $110,000,000 for 20 years looks like it will be around $179,900,000?)

  9. (Oh, and $46 million not $46 billion) Grandchildren would be paying off the police station if it got spread out over 40 years. That is the type of thinking that was one factor into the home mortgage crisis. People thought about what is the monthly re-payment like and ignored the total cost of re-paying it.

    What I thought the bond guy talked about was restructuring the bond for a better re-payment plan. If previous debt was at something such as 6.5% and it could be re-done for 5%–that is what I thought the bond guy meant. Ald. Baker came up with the 40-year plan, which I think is nuts.

    Refinancing debt like when homeowners refinance their house mortgages for a better interest rate, though, I am all for that.

    I know when I just borrowed something when I replaced my previous 16-year-old car, the money guy did not tell me how much I would pay over the life of the loan. You bet I checked before I signed the papers. I am paying off that beast at a faster rate by adding a lot extra to the monthly payments. I detest paying interest. I am doing the same thing for the house. But if taxes keep going up and my salaries are not keeping up, I will not be able to add as much extra to pay those things off early.

    I was lucky to get a small pay increase but the cost of my health insurance is going up higher than the small pay increase. Even if the cost of everything stayed exactly the same (which we know it will not), my take-home pay will be less.

  10. Ivan you are correct. Mayor-Select Polvsen and this city council have been on a Mad “Buying” frenzy as of late. My point exactly…SELL OFF CITY OWNED PROPERTY! I have been advocating this line of thinking for the past (6) months and have been shot down by Mr Polvsen, Ron Naylor and Donna Gorski and even Herb Rubin! I’m glad to see others talking about this (even Herb….WOW!)

    I’m sick of this ridiculous argument that Mr Povlsen and the city council have forced upon us, telling me that we need to keep purchasing land for “future needs”

    As I view things, getting our Police Department more space is a “current” need. Tough having a facility the size of Schucks is preposterous!

    We need to stop this never ending buying frenzy!

  11. Mark,
    I did not disagree with the idea of selling of properties. What I asked you again and again what properties and what are they worth. After you posted on this months ago? You never answers.

    I then asked Biernacki and he said other than transitional properties (like the building that is being demolished), what the city owned was the site for the police station, the acre for the fire station at Schnucks, and miscellaneous small parcels with tracks near the old rr station. The city can’t sell the Schnuck’s site, it could sell the police site but then would have to get another one, and the stuff near the rr seem to be worth nothing.

    But if you have data on sites that can be sold let me know and I’ll advocate for it.

    also if you answer and I don’t reply my computers are doing things to me that might give those who dislike me pleasure and I never know when I’ll have web access

  12. Herb-

    How soon you forget. Did you not witness the recent City real estate buying spree? The City NOW owns the former Ralph’s at 7th & Lincoln Highway, the former Bank Building at 4th and Lincoln Highway. The city owns extra land at the airport (for Quote / un-quote “future development”). Enough with this future development nonsense.

    Mr Biernacki passed on this point (Blew if off, if you will) when brought up at City Council when Ald Keller brought it to his attention.

    The city needs to sell off the assets it owns to pay for the new Police station space (Again, I am now sold on the 55,000 Sq foot massive “Taj Mahal of Law” that Mayor Povlsen and his “fellow TAX AND SPEND City Council members” want.)

    Mayor-select Povlsen and this city council seem to be doing everything they can to insure that the citizen’s of DeKalb are taxed to death.

  13. Correction to the line

    ” (Again, I am now sold on the 55,000 Sq foot massive “Taj Mahal of Law” that Mayor Povlsen and his “fellow TAX AND SPEND City Council members” want.)”


    ” (Again, I am NOT sold on the 55,000 Sq foot massive “Taj Mahal of Law” that Mayor Povlsen and his “fellow TAX AND SPEND City Council members” want.)”

  14. One site that would be able to be sold is the Annex across from City Hall. Once the police department is moved out and the old station refurbished (presuming with TIF dollars), the offices across the street should be moved back over to City Hall and those two buildings sold.

    The other big chunk of property that could be sold would be the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport. This property is sucking a lot from the City of DeKalb and the fact that is seems to be on life support, the taxpayers would prefer to cut the cord. Let a private business make it work. This community has no right being in the airport business. That is not the purpose of City Hall.

    Another piece of land would be the empty lots behind City Hall but if they were to move all of the offices back to one building, there could be a need for additional parking.

    All of the other properties seem to be properties that have been purchased for the purpose of rebuilding downtown but I wish the city would put up some for sale signs. I’d rather see these properties moved sooner than later.

  15. Mark,
    One can be pro or con the downtown redevelopment but the tif purchases cannot be sold and then used for a police station.

    Ivan, the airport idea intrigues. Both my spouse and I have questioned the airport, actually for over twenty years. Certainly it costs the city money, some of the costs hidden. It is justified as an economic development engine, though I’m not convinced. In any case, it loses money. Now how do we find a buyer willing to pay cash for property that has lost money over many decades. I too would like to see the city out of the airport business but do think the city benefits from having an airport.

    The downtown properties are part of a marketing package. One of the major recommendations of the Renew summit was to redevelop property on north first street right after the turn from 38, as consultants stated that was prime property if cleared and held in single ownership. But then the mess we face in real estate.. .

    Anyway, more thoughts on the airport would be appreciated. Maybe one of web wizards would locate some info on private airports. My sense is that many have failed.


  16. We are stuck with the DeKalb-Taylor Municipal Money Black Hole as soooo many federal dollars went to it.

    City people must be reading this blog as someone (Monas??) mentioned that during the last meeting.

    Herb wrote:
    “The downtown properties are part of a marketing package. One of the major recommendations of the Renew summit was to redevelop property on north first street right after the turn from 38, as consultants stated that was prime property if cleared and held in single ownership. But then the mess we face in real estate.. .”

    There are some very beautiful old houses in there. Anyone wanting to tear down some of those beautiful, old houses needs to think about the bad luck that ripping out the Old Post Office did to downtown. Gee, former Mayor Sparrow, just where did all the fantastic things that were supposed to happen for giving away the parking lot for a buck? Some of us still refuse to set foot in Walgreen’s, and I am one of them. The apartments on the west side, on the corner of Pine and N. 1st and those across the street are nice, too. What the bloody hell is wrong with people??? Do they just think that anything over ten years old needs to be THROWN AWAY!!!???? And with MY tax dollars??????

    I’ve had enough. ALL of those houses have owners and the apartments have renters and if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. Many of those houses are in Steve Bigolin’s books, and ripping them out would be like ripping out DeKalb’s history and soul and burning them like rubbish.

    If they want to play Sim City with more property, how about the corner of N. 1st and Hillcrest and just south? There is the empty lot on the corner and the former pizza place and former gas station just south of the river. There is some land that could be used for something.

    If anyone wants to get busy with cleaning up something and replacing old buildings, they need to take a look at east Route 38 and south 4th Street and FOR GOD’S SAKE, STOP USING MY HARD-EARNED MONEY DOING IT.

    You know what? Maybe ReNew DeKalb should rip out Ellwood House and put in a disco roller rink so they can make a freaking profit.

  17. don’t worry anonymous. The old houses on the west side of the road were treated as wonderful old homes that should not be torn town.

    Consultant took all of us on the original summit on a walk through all of town during which we pointed out the wonderful old buildings that should be preserved no matter what. The buildings were recorded that way on the plan.

    The renew project can use all the help it can get from informed people such as yourself. We were all quite strong in preserving anything that had historic value. And, if you remember I too was part of the fight on Walgreen objecting vociferously to the hidden transfers to Walgreens (they got a parking lot for a dollar and the city had to buy another one for full price)

    I wasn’t clear enough “right after the turn on the east side of the street” okay.

    In fact, much of the plan involves renewing the older, deteriorated parts of downtown and then ‘flowing’ into the historic buildings on the west side of first street.

    I think you over-reacted but I should have been more specific.


    I too was engaged in the Walgreen mess

  18. Well, unless someone can convince me that Gerry Brauer ain’t too old to disco roller skate I would not support the ReNew the Ellwood House plan. He’s a hands on type administrator and I’d hate to see him throw his hip out of joint. Besides, we’re self insured.

  19. Mac or Ivan

    I have heard that the local contractors that want to be involved in the project want nothing to do with the Construction Manager type of construction that Ivan recommends.

    They are insisting that the only method they want used is the Design Bid Build approach. Is this true??


  20. That is exactly what I’m hearing. The city would definitely get a better deal bidding the job out right now. If you tell a Construction Manager to spend $17 million he will do just that. Design the building and put it out to bid.

    Lumber prices have dropped drastically from even just 2 months ago. A 2×6 – 16′ in length 2 months ago was $6.95 per board. Today, I was quoted $4.25 per board. A $2.70 per board savings. 2×4 precuts are at $1.59. I haven’t seen that price for almost 13 years maybe a bit longer. Companies are hungry and will bid that way right now.

    Fuel prices down right now can’t hurt and exports to other countries are slowing down so concrete, steel, copper, drywall etc will begin to come down.

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