City accepting bids for Public Safety Complex

By HASKEL BURNS,

Almost two months after approving the issuance of $45 million in general obligations bonds for construction of the upcoming Public Safety Complex, Hattiesburg City Council members have opened up that project for possible contractors.

Council members recently voted unanimously to advertise bids for the complex, which will eventually serve as the new home of Hattiesburg Police Department and municipal court on the James Street site of the former HPD building. Sealed bids will be received by city officials at City Hall, 200 Forrest St. in downtown Hattiesburg, until 10 a.m. Dec. 21.

The bid advertisements were allowed, in part, by the recent completion of the city’s audit for Fiscal Year 2017, which enabled city officials to reapply for the city’s bond rating with credit rating firm Moody’s. The rating was suspended last year because of the late completion of the Fiscal Year 2015 audit.

“It’s truly wonderful to have that audit behind us, and get our rating back and to start to the police complex,” City Council President Carter Carroll said.

Bid documents can be obtained in hard form for a deposit of $500 per set, made payable to Albert & McCleskey Associate Architects. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded to the document holder upon the return of the documents to the architect in good condition no later than 10 calendar days after the bid date.

Downloading bid documents, as well as submitting electronic bids, can be completed at www.centralbidding.com.

Each bid must be received in a sealed envelope with “Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex Bid Package” on the lower left-hand corner of the envelope. City council members will review the bids and choose the lowest and best proposal at a future date.

A pre-bid meeting, which all bidders are encouraged to attend, will be held at 10 a.m. at the Public Safety Complex site, 701 James St. in Hattiesburg.

Along with accepting the advertisement of bids, council members also voted to accept several drawings for the Public Safety Complex, including civil drawings, drawings for the former Methodist hospital at the site, and police and court building drawings.

“The Public Safety Complex project is something that has been discussed for a number of years and especially during my campaign over a year and a half ago, so I am excited that our city council voted to move the project along by putting it out to bid,” Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said. “This is a great step forward for our city as we work towards building a much-needed permanent home for our police department.

“I am also pleased that our administration has approached this project in a way that should ensure construction costs stay under control in order to save taxpayer dollars.”

Of the $45 million in bonds – which are to be sold to the Mississippi Development Bank – no more than $27 million is expected to go toward the safety complex, with the remaining amount available if needed for other municipal projects.

Mayor Toby Barker said the $45 million is the maximum amount the city can issue in bond indebtness without raising taxes, and will provide the city flexibility to issue more series of bonds if the council chooses to move forward with any other major transportation or infrastructure projects.

“By setting the potential bonds in the maximum amount – not just enough for one project, not just at $27 million or $32 million – we can actually maximize the impact of what we’re going to do now, without raising taxes,” Barker said in a previous story. “However, I want you to know that if we embark on any additional projects other than police stations or fire stations, it’s our administration’s position that these need to be projects with at least a 30 to 50-year life span.

“These need to be game-changing projects. And we know that we have some very particular needs in that category, but we are not, any more, going to issue long-term debt to do things like just pave streets. We can meet that need by smart budgeting and fiscal discipline.”

The Public Safety Complex project, which has been discussed for the last several years as a solution to the police department’s aging facilities, took its first official step in September 2016 when municipal court moved from the James Street site to its temporary location in the former federal courthouse on West Pine Street. That move was followed by the Parks and Recreation Department, which moved from Katie Avenue to a new location at Tatum Park, allowing HPD’s dispatch to move temporarily into the Katie Avenue Building.

LIFE of Mississippi, which was located adjacent to the former HPD building, then moved into a new location on West 7th Street before HPD staff moved into their temporary location on Klondyke Street.

Some time after demolition on the James Street site is finished – minus the hospital section, which will stay intact – construction will begin at that location on the Public Safety Complex. That process is expected to take about four years, at which point HFP and municipal court will move into the new facility.

In addition to new digs for the police department and municipal court, initial plans for the Public Safety Complex included a new facility for Hattiesburg Fire Department administration, which is currently located on Corinne Street. But after the cost for the project rose from an estimated $25 million to as high as $40 million – with a cap of $32 million in between – Barker proposed scaling back the project, including starting without the fire administration building.

“The estimated price tag grew over the past several years as more ancillary facilities were added to the plan,” he said. “But when this council and this administration took office last summer, we began to study on ways to scale back the project so that it would meet the needs of our police department while being affordable on our residents and not tying the hands of future administrations and city councils.

“So we have taken this project back to its original intent: a new police station and municipal court facility. In addition, our intent – subject to council authorization and approval – is for this project to bid out instead of doing certificate of occupation.”