SELMA – After three years, Selma is no closer to getting its new police station built. Only one bid has been received and that came in at nearly $2 million over budget. This bid was rejected at the Sept. 4 Selma City Council meeting.

In other action, the Council also put a halt to a rural solar project while giving the green light to another proposal that may bring more solar lighting and projects to town.

The city’s effort to build a new police station and replace its current police facility housed in an aging train station on Front Street started again in 2015. In September 2016, $4 million was secured from the state and in November of that same year, Measure P passed and brought another $4 million for the project. Construction was estimated to cost $6 million.

Fresno architect Arthur Dyson was hired and since then has submitted a 92-page plan that details the architectural, structural, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, civil and landscape design of the new police station. That design is on the city’s website at https://bit.ly/2oKQSlL.

Dyson’s design includes:

  • A lobby or community meeting room
  • A community center room
  • Offices for lieutenants, sergeants, detectives
  • A computer room
  • Break room
  • A patrol squad room
  • A mental health evaluation area
  • Armory
  • Report writing office
  • Evidence room and evidence-processing area
  • Prisoner-processing area
  • K-9 area
  • Records room
  • Live scan area
  • Waiting area
  • Interview room
  • Police chief’s office
  • Conference room
  • Men’s and women’s lockers

A project manual on the city’s website shows a pre-bid meeting was held Aug. 1 and a deadline for bids was set for Aug. 30. Ten bid invitations were sent out to various construction firms, only one from Seals Construction was received. Their bid was received Sept. 30 at $7.952 million.

Since this lone bid “far exceeds the engineer’s estimate,” Assistant City Manager Isaac Moreno proposed the bid be rejected, that the project’s scope and cost be revised and brought back to the council.

Councilwoman Yvette Montijo had left the meeting prior to this vote, but the remaining council members voted unanimously to reject the lone bid.

Although Mayor Jim Avalos assured community members in the audience that a police station would be built “one way or the other,” many were concerned the cost would exceed the funds and more taxes would be required, or that the city’s general fund or reserves would be dipped into.

“It’s your responsibility to bring us a police department under the $8 million,” Selma resident Joan Nelson said. “We’re not going to pay anymore. I think we all need to start thinking about the money we spend.”

Selma resident Sarah Guerra said she’s frustrated to find out the station’s plans have been downsized with scant information to the public and council and includes what she considers unnecessary luxuries.

“We’ve just found out in the last two weeks that this police station was going to be approximately 11,000 square feet. It started off as a three story, now it’s a two story, now it’s going to be a single story. Why did it take almost three years to find out the square footage? We still don’t know. There’s going to be six jail cells? What are we building? A luxury? Let’s build a police station that’s suitable for our city. If you need to cut these extra rooms, do whatever you have to do with the money we have left. This is our taxpayers’ money and we won’t pay another dime for this project.”

Selma resident Yolanda Torrez said she was concerned that citizens, officers or council members weren’t given a chance to give input on the station’s design and that it be delayed to the point the city’s reserve funds be spent to complete it.

“In Montijo words, we will not ever touch that reserve in cases of emergencies. She didn’t think it was an emergency when our kids were getting stabbed and our families are getting robbed. If she doesn’t feel it was important for [hiring more officers], she sure as the hell better not feel it’s important to take a penny for this police department.”

Others were in favor of some of the amenities, however, citing officer safety.

“Law enforcement needs a safe place to work out, rather than around the public. And I’d rather have my kids go to a police department center because I know it’s a safe place there,” Selma resident Franco Atkinson said.

Council members also said they were dismayed at the lack of progress on the station.

Councilman Scott Robertson said while he agrees a new police station is needed, he decried the lack of communication between city staff and the council regarding progress on the project.

“We didn’t get any information from administration two and a half years ago. They wouldn’t even tell us if we got the [state] appropriation. They, meaning city staff and police you name it, and I refuse to put the people’s money on the line unless I have some assurances this was going to get approved and we’d be spending the money in a responsible way.”

Robertson said he does want the new police station to be safe for officers but disagreed with the need for meeting areas for the community.

“I don’t know if I want my police station, with all due respect, to be a meeting place. I want the criminals to be taken there, locked up and sent to [Fresno] County.”

In other action, the Council backed a Fresno County Planning Commission’s decision to deny a solar power project proposed by ForeFront Power. Although the property is located in the county, it’s close enough to Selma to be in its sphere of influence. Citing concerns over future housing developments, aesthetic and incompatibility issues, the council voted to uphold the Commission’s earlier decision.

Council however is in favor of solar development in town and entered into an agreement with ENGIE Services to explore having the Irvine firm install solar projects throughout town. The company will first look into the Selma’s lighting, HVAC and electrical needs to calculate how much it would save the city by converting to LED lighting and solar systems. Senior Manager Ashu Jain will return with a report at a later meeting.

Council also agreed to waive fees for the Selma Chamber of Commerce’s Sept. 15 Car Show. The $375 is being waived for such costs as the special event permit, sound permit, street closure permit and barricades.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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