Sparta to seek buyer for current police station

With the new Sparta police station on schedule for a Sept. 1 completion date at the latest, the Sparta Finance Committee Wednesday turned its attention to the present station on East Oak Street.
The committee agreed to advertise for requests for proposals (RFPs) to see if there are any interested parties who want to purchase the station, which the city is abandoning due to its too many deficiencies to meet the department's future needs. 
The city ditched any notion of remodeling the facility, noting it would be difficult to impossible since the walls, partitions, floors and ceilings are made of steel reinforced concrete because the building also served as a jail. It also isn't equipped with interview rooms that meet state standards for juveniles and its evidence storage room is woefully inadequate.
Co-City Administrator Todd Fahning said the city will use a similar RFP strategy to that of the Sparta School District, which sold its former Administrative and Educational Center building on Franklin Street using the same method. That building had three interested parties submit RFPs and sold it for $1.2 million.
The  city is expected to schedule a meeting in May or June for those who submit RFPs to present their plans for the building to the city council. Fahning said aldermen don’t necessarily have to accept the highest bid on the property, assuming there is more than one,  and can consider what is best for the city and downtown area.
Meanwhile, work on the new Sparta Police Station is moving along. According to Fahning, the $3.1 million project to renovate the former Lakeview Elementary School into the city’s law enforcement center is, so far, $150,000 under budget.
He said construction is going smoothly with contractors just completing the framing and drywalling set to begin. He expects the budget to hold steady through the end of the project.
“We’re pretty much in the construction phase now so all the surprises should have been revealed by now and there really weren’t any,” he said. There was a sewer line that had to be replaced but Fahning characterized that as not significant.
Fowler & Hammer, a La Crosse-area commercial construction general contractor, was the lowest of eight bidders on the project. HSR Associates is the La Crosse architecture firm hired to design the project.
The city purchased the building, located on Pine Street and Rusk Avenue at the entrance to Memorial Park, from the Sparta School District for $225,000.
The city took control of the building last July. The renovation project is on an 11-month construction schedule, placing the estimated completion date in late summer of 2021.
With the purchase of Lakeview, the city now owns all the land around the building, including the playground, which it plans to incorporate into Memorial Park. The school district retained possession of the house it owns immediately to the west of the school, which is used as a rental property.
The new police station will have locker rooms, a training room, interview rooms and office space for administration and for officers to fill out reports. But one of the biggest things is expanded evidence storage, which these days requires refrigeration for biological evidence.

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