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SARATOGA SPRINGS: City EMS facility talks resume

As the city's public safety officials still ponder the placement, cost and construction schedule of a proposed new public safety facility, another meeting with LaBella Associates and BBL Construction is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6, to hash out the details.

Representatives from consultants LaBella and BBL recently reported to the City Council that a full renovation of City Hall to continue to house police and courts could cost $18.7 million; a new building at HiRoc bowling alley or the formerly contaminated National Grid site on Excelsior Avenue could cost $21.8 million; and a new building downtown could cost $24.5 million.

Kevin Marron, of Labella Associates, said the committee looked at six sites for the EMS facility in geographic proximity to one another and the city, taking into account wetland areas and utility limitations.

The possible downtown sites are the Woodlawn Avenue parking lot; the county building on Woodlawn; the Algonquin Building parking lot; and the parking lot between High Rock Avenue and Maple Avenue off Lake Avenue.

Deputy Safety Commissioner Frank Dudla said the cost of the facility would be dependent on a number of variables.

It's going to depend on acquisition, No. 1, he said. "If we decide on a property we don't own, obviously there will have to be negotiation."

A separate east side facility would cost about $4.3 million in 2008, but estimated construction costs are expected to rise nine percent per year.

The Public Safety Capital Construction Committee presented possibilities for a new public safety building and Eastern Plateau EMS/fire station at a recent City Council meeting.

"If the police station were a private business, my code enforcers would have shut them down," said Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim. The building was constructed in 1850 and housed five police officers. There are now 70 officers.

David Wall, of BBL, said the estimates the company gave the council were for the complete costs of the project, including furniture and equipment, "not just the bricks and mortar." He cited his company's restoration of the state Court of Appeals building in Albany " an historic, entire restoration " that cost $452 per square foot at 80,000 square feet. He compared this to renovating City Hall to suit the Public Safety Capital Construction Committee's needs and estimated the cost to be $325 per square foot. A 5,000 square-foot addition for vertical access also would be required. It would be a multi-phased, two-year project estimated to cost $18.7 million.

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