By LESLIE COLLINS
September 4, 2013
The East Patrol station and crime lab campus project is back on track but not without compromise.
Originally, the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) proposed building a 71,000 square foot crime lab, but budget constraints halted that plan, bringing the square footage back down to 54,000.
The crime lab debate stalled Kansas City City Council members in approving needed bonds, but a concession was reached following meetings with city officials, KCPD staff, the city architect, construction staff and other key players.
Line by line, the group poured over the cost of the project, searching for ways to devote more funds to the crime lab construction. While the group didn’t find additional funds, it did find ways to reconfigure the campus design to give the crime lab more space. Pat Klein, assistant city manager and East Patrol project manager, said the crime lab could be built between 56,000 to 60,000 square feet. Finding that additional square footage was enough for city council members to give their approval Aug. 29 for issuing $78 million worth of bonds for the East Patrol/crime lab project as well as several other projects, including paying off the cost of acquiring property in the East Village Redevelopment District; providing funds for the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the Soccer Village in Swope Park; and financing certain improvements in the Columbus Park Project, the City Market Project and the Municipal Auditorium Project. Estimated total cost of the East Patrol/crime lab project is $74 million.
Building the lab to the original specs of 71,000 square feet would have required KCPD to make reductions in force to offset the cost, City Council member Jan Marcason said.
“That’s just the reality right now,” Marcason said. “There are other competing costs and projects that have been identified by the police that are equally important.”
Marcason said one example is KCPD’s dispatching software, which will need to be updated next year.
City Council member John Sharp continued to defend the need for a larger crime lab and said the city must address the crime lab’s backlog.
“I think it’s pretty clear that we’re probably going to run out of space at this lab,” Sharp said. “More and more police work is going to depend on these high tech lab techniques. I sure don’t want to be in a situation where just a few years down the road, we’re crammed again.”
Even if KCPD farmed out some of its lab work to surrounding jurisdictions, Kansas City’s cases would most likely be put on the “back burner,” Sharp said.
“There’s a backlog across the board on every type of crime we process in our lab,” said Randy Hopkins, commander of KCPD’s Investigation Bureau.
Sharp reiterated backlog specifics and said the faster KCPD can process its cases, the faster criminals can be put behind bars.
“This facility has a citywide impact,” City Council member Scott Wagner said. “I’d hate to go to all this trouble and find out a year after we’ve built it (crime lab), a new backlog has emerged.”
“I understand your position,” Mayor Sly James said. “I think it would have been the desires of everybody to build a lab as big as we possibly could, but the fact of the matter is we just don’t have the money. I don’t think it’s a matter of not wanting to, it’s a matter of not being able to.”
City Council member Cindy Circo stressed that the crime lab is only one piece of the puzzle for improving public safety and that the city must look at the “big picture.”
“We all want the top crime lab, and that’s what we’re providing,” Marcason said. “We are providing our citizens with a state-of-the-art crime lab 30 percent larger than what it is (now). It’s a good step forward.
“In the end, I think we have come up with a state-of-the-art facility and a fabulous economic development project in the 3rd District and it’s something we can afford.”