Renovating the former Armory building on Route 58 into a police headquarters and justice court will cost an estimated $11.3 million, according to an engineering report commissioned by Riverhead Town.
The board hired Cashin Associates and EGA Architects in September for $87,500 to do an evaluation, analysis, schematic design and cost estimate for the conversion of the Armory into a police and court headquarters.
That report came in this past week, officials say, and projected construction costs and contingencies came to $11.3 million, Councilman Jim Wooten said.
Currently, the police and justice courts are both located in the same building next to Town Hall, but officials say both facilities are too small. As the number of cases in the court increase, there’s a growing danger from working in cramped quarters, officials say.
The state gave the armory to the town in 2011 at no cost. The town had planned to use it as a new police station and justice court.
But two Town Board members now say they feel the price tag to renovate the armory is too high.
“We don’t have the funds for that,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “What I want to do is move the justice court to the old (Second Street) firehouse. It will give them more space and cost us less money. We just don’t have $11 million.”
By moving the courts, the police could use the entire building it currently shares with the court, he said.
The Town Board had planned to sell the Second Street firehouse until this past week, when three board members decided against that plan.
“We don’t have the money,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said of the $11.3 million estimate for the Armory. “We’re talking about coming down off the debt for the landfill and we’re putting ourselves right back into debt with this. I don’t see how we can do it. If it was a sure thing the EPCAL subdivision was complete and we could sell off lots there, I’d consider the armory plan. We’ve got to put together a priority list and figure out how we can do more with less.”
Councilman George Gabrielsen was non-committal about the armory proposal.
“I think it’s a great plan, and a great layout, but it comes down to one thing, where’s the money going to come from?” he said. “I’m not going to commit either way right now, but I think we’ve really got to look at the cost.”
Mr. Wooten thus far is the only board members to voice support for the plan.
“We really have to bite the bullet and do this,” he said.
The plans drawn up by Cashing/EGA propose having the police station on the ground floor of the Armory and the courts on the second floor, Mr. Wooten said. The entrance would be on the west side of the building. It would have the police administration and a police training room on the second floor as well, Mr. Wooten said. Initial concerns about asbestos and lead from a basement shooting range that had been at the Armory turned out to be not as big a problem as anticipated, Mr. Wooten said.
The debt on the Armory wouldn’t be paid until at least 2017, he said, by which time the debt from the landfill would begin to decrease.
“This will be a two-year plan to get this built anyway,” he said. “There’s still a lot of discussion among board members on whether to even move forward with this particular plan.”
Supervisor Sean Walter said he wasn’t going to pass judgment on the cost estimate for the Armory yet because the Town Board has yet to discuss it as a group.
But he added, “The situation we have in this justice court is unsafe and we have an obligation to protect not only the justices and our employees but also the residents that come into that building. My goal is to build something that is safe for everybody involved.”