Auburn City Council August 22

On Thursday night, the Auburn City Council expressed support for a proposed project to construct a new public safety building for the Auburn Fire Department and potentially Cayuga County agencies or assets.

AUBURN — A plan to construct a new public safety building for Auburn could finally come to fruition after years of planning, as city staff said on Thursday a resolution for the project could be ready as soon as September.

The current building, which houses both the Auburn Fire and Police departments, does not meet the requirements of either department in a number of areas, and suffers from general structural deterioration, according to city Director of Capital Improvement Program and Grants Christina Selvek.

To replace it, the city is considering building a new structure at 31 Seminary St. to house the fire department — and potentially some county agencies — while the space the department vacates in the existing building would be renovated for police use.

In 2014, a feasibility committee began formally considering a new structure, but City Manager Jeff Dygert said it's been a topic of discussion for nearly 30 years.

"We just are getting to a point where we need to take decisive action," Dygert said.

Some of the problems on the police side of the building include general structural deterioration, the lack of a sally port for prisoner transport, the lack of an impound and storage space, and water infiltration.

The building was also not designed to handle the weight or space requirements of modern firetrucks, which not only limits what kind of equipment the fire department can procure but pushes the structure to its limits, according to Mayor Mike Quill.

Thanks to a $2 million 2016 state grant and another $1.2 million awarded last month as a part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the city is well-positioned to undertake the project, Selvek said, adding that staff could have a resolution for the council by its first September meeting.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $10 million, Selvek said. The city would bond for $6.8 million of that in the 2020 budget, although Selvek recommended bonding for the whole amount as reimbursements from state grants can often take time to come in.

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The project was also included as part of last year's Cayuga County Shared Services Plan, as the new building may also house some Cayuga County agencies such as the Emergency Management Office or E-911 department, which would make it eligible for tax savings reimbursement.

Dygert said he is currently working to schedule meetings with the county Legislature and staff to discuss that portion of the project.

A second phase of the project would allow the police department to expand its operations into the space the fire department leaves behind, which both Quill and Dygerty said is safe for occupation despite not meeting the fire department's needs.

Additionally, that second phase could provide some much-needed space for Auburn's City Court, which the state Office of Court Administration said has outgrown its current space at the historic post office.

The property at 31 Seminary St., despite being one building, is actually two parcels, Quill said. The first holds the Save A Lot grocery store, while the second parcel holds a laundromat and rent-to-own store.

According to Dygert, the Save A Lot would be unaffected, while the city would work with the other businesses to honor their leases until construction.

Dygert also said the city would be working with nearby Willard Memorial Chapel, which also won DRI funding, to develop parking.

Although no resolution was presented, councilors were broadly supportive of the proposal.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin