Last Monday, July 23, construction crews began hacking away at the tile roof of the Oro Valley Police Department’s southern substation. The building, located at 500 W. Magee Road, will receive a $5.3 million expansion extending to the south and the east, along with a brand new second story.
In March of 2016, OVPD purchased the substation through a bank foreclosure firm for just $315,000, even though it was on the market for around $900,000. Now two years later, the department has maxed out the 5,000 square foot space and solidified plans for a 17,000 square foot expansion.
OVPD Deputy Chief Aaron LeSuer said once the expansion is finished, the first floor will have offices for their training coordinator, K9 unit, community action team and will also serve as a place where residents can file paperwork, instead of driving all the way to the main station at 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.
The second floor will be dedicated to housing personnel and property evidence. LeSuer said this is the main function of the expansion, and they’ve needed it for the past 18 years. “It will properly store [evidence] per industry standards and have proper ventilation and temperature control,” he said. “We have it in several different locations right now, and some get extreme heat during the summer.”
Tucson Local Media previously reported that in 2015, nearly 6,000 individual pieces of evidence were submitted to the department, but only about 3,000 were disposed.
In 2016, OVPD had over 80,000 pieces of evidence to properly store and keep track of. “The folks that are the most excited are the property personnel because they’re working in less than desirable conditions,” LeSuer said. “They’re working in very cramped conditions … and this will be something that they will meet the industry standards for and work in just one location, they will have a lab in there to do the type of work they need to do plus a little bit extra.”
The department expects a ribbon-cutting within the next 10 to 12 months, hopefully by mid-July of next year.
The expansion project was originally funded by $650,000 in development impact fees and about $2.7 million from Capital Improvement Project funds collected over the past two years. However, LeSuer said the costs of construction have increased since 2016. He attributes these increases to an improving economy, which makes labor harder to source. When the department went to bid for the project, the costs were higher than they originally planned for.
“We have been banking as much cash as possible for this project,” said Stacey Lemos, CFO of the Town of Oro Valley. “We have nearly $3 million available in cash, but the bid came in at about $5.2 or $5.3 [million.]”
The Oro Valley Town Council’s budget for the new fiscal year includes about a $2.1 million capacity to issue bonds for the police facility, according to Lemos. The town saw an increase in revenue this past year, so in the budget, council included more bond funding for projects such as this one.
While the new bond funding has not been officially approved by the town council for use towards this project, she said a meeting will be scheduled in the fall to approve those bonds for the extra expansion costs.
Why use bond funding to finish the expansion? Lemos said bonds are a very common way of financing municipal projects, and it’s a great benefit to be able to get the project built in the current pricing environment, which avoids the possibility of a more expensive project in the future.
“Interest rates are at historical low levels,” she said. “It’s often attractive to be able to finance the project and pay it off over 10 to 20 years at a two and a half to three percent interest rate.”
Rather than waiting until they have all the cash on hand, Lemos said the town can build something today and have it available immediately, and then pay it off in the future. She added that construction costs can outpace the ability to fund these projects.
Taking the bond funding into account, LeSuer said the project will now be completely funded. The $5.3 million includes both the build out of the property and all of the furniture and equipment that goes along with a brand new building.
Kathleen Kunz is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.