Local residents have invested heavily in the Durango Public Library, the Tech Center and Durango Community Recreation Center in recent years, but now it may be time to remodel and replace existing city buildings.
The city is working on a master plan for seven city buildings including City Hall, River City Hall, the Carnegie Building, the General Services Building, the Mason Center, the Parks and Recreation Department’s maintenance shop and the Durango Police Station.
The city hired the Blythe Group to look at the buildings holistically because they are aging and inefficient, said City Manager Ron LeBlanc.
“The systems are wearing out,” he said.
The master plan is several weeks away from being finished, and the city does not yet have estimates about how much work on each building might cost.
However, work on five of the buildings could be funded by new sales tax on retail marijuana or an increase in another local tax. The Mason Center and the Parks and Recreation maintenance shop could be paid for with the 2015 dedicated half-cent sales tax approved in April.
Among all the buildings, the police station has emerged as a top priority.
The narrow, winding halls of the police station, which houses 65 employees, lead mostly to small offices shared by several staff members and cramped multi-purpose rooms.
“They have outgrown this building by a huge margin,” said Levi Lloyd, director of city operations.
In one closet-sized room, the police clean their weapons next to shelves full of general cleaning supplies and underneath communication lines strung from the ceiling.
Those who designed the building in the 1950s, and later remodeled it in the 1980s, did not anticipate the need for Internet. So there is no good way to run conduit for communication wires through the ceiling, Lloyd said.
On the second floor, a few detectives helped renovate their office space on their own time last year, said Capt. Dan Shry.
The detectives had been working on a floor that was formerly a dispatch office, and when the dispatchers moved in 1999, the carpeted walls remained. The whole space was decorated with mauve carpet and mauve cubicles.
“It was beautiful,” Shry joked.
Using materials bought with city money, the detectives ripped out the carpet and built individual offices on the floor.
“We would have done the electrical, too, but they wouldn’t let us,” said Detective Joe Farmer.
Police officers have done other small renovations to the building, like new shelving and new paint, on their own time. But they are out of space, Lloyd said.
The police station staff members need about 40,000 square feet of space for offices, evidence storage, interviewing rooms, holding cells and other functions. The police also need a secured parking area.
Right now, staff members have about 14,000 square feet inside the building. In addition, about 30 police vehicles are parked on the street.
The city’s master plan is weighing the benefits of remodeling the station or building a new one somewhere else, Lloyd said.
“We are looking at what other locations are available in the city,” Lloyd said.
Other departments are also in need of more space or space to allow consolidation of office spread among city buildings.
At the Mason Center, home of the city’s gymnastics program, there is not enough room to host meets locally, said Stephanie Malhmood, recreation supervisor for gymnastics.
The gym serves about 500 kids each week, but the space limits how many athletes can attend classes.
“We have frequent wait-list problems,” said Cathy Metz, director of parks and recreation.
Around the building, the need for maintenance is evident.
“The building is just really old. ...You come in, and it smells bad,” Malhmood said.
There has been some maintenance through the years, but now costs of needed repairs could be greater than the cost of replacement.
“It’s probably at the end of the useful life,” Metz said.
City Hall and River City Hall also need work.
LeBlanc would like to see the city planners, now in River City Hall, and the city records department, business development coordinator and information system staff, now in the Carnegie Building, all in one building, with the City Hall workers.
Consolidation would make business dealings with the city more convenient for the public, he said.
The General Services Building in Bodo Industrial Park also needs more space. City workers maintain many of the 800 rolling pieces of equipment at that location. The fleet includes snowplows, lawn mowers, trucks, trailers, police cars, buses and trolleys.
The master plan should outline how the current sales-tax revenue and the potential new marijuana-tax collections could be used during the next 10 years.
“If you have $1, should it go into insulation and windows, or should it go into a building that should last another 35 years?” LeBlanc asked.
The master plan should help answer this question for all seven city facilities.