Officials: New Warner Robins law enforcement center under budget

chwright@macon.comFebruary 11, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Not including furnishings or equipment, the new law enforcement center is $800,000 under its $7.1 million construction budget.

“We were tasked with building the building,” said Gary Lee, executive director of the Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency. “But we kind of had enough (money), so we decided to do the furniture, too.”

After adding the cost of furniture, land acquisitions and other expenses related to the building, the project is $140,000 below the $9.45 million earmarked in the 2006 and 2012 special purpose local option sales taxes, according to figures given to the Redevelopment Agency board Monday. But with both SPLOSTs falling short of projections, the city may need to find different revenue sources.

For now, the board celebrated being under budget. Lee said the police department may be able to relocate by the end of March.

“We’ve been holding on to that money as much as we can,” Lee said. “It’s unbelievable.”

The law enforcement center is under construction at Watson and Armed Forces boulevards.

Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said last week the 2006 SPLOST fell $2.7 million short of projections, and the 2012 SPLOST, which began in October, is running 10 to 12 percent behind.

Stalnaker said all involved government entities have been warned to expect the shortage.

Warner Robins already has accounted for all of the LEC funds, financing the entire $4.45 million budgeted from the 2012 SPLOST. The report that Finance Director Bill Harte gave the RDA board Monday shows $5.15 million received from the 2006 SPLOST. Only $5 million was earmarked in that SPLOST.

“That’s interest from the 2006 SPLOST I transferred ... because we knew they were going to need it,” Harte said of the additional $150,000.

Harte said he would double-check that the city did collect the projected $5 million for the project but did not get back to a reporter Monday.

Jacob Cox, Houston County community planner, said Warner Robins received about $320,000 less in the 2006 SPLOST than projected. He could not say how much each project was affected.

If the 2012 SPLOST remains on trend to fall 10 to 12 percent under budget, the city will need to locate between $445,000 and $534,000 to cover the bonds already issued for the expected funds.

Councilman Paul Shealy said with the way the city is expanding, it’s likely additional property taxes collected over the next six years will cover the shortage.

Lee directed questions about how the city would handle a shortfall to Mayor Chuck Shaheen. Shaheen did not respond to a message left at his office regarding the anticipated 2012 SPLOST shortage and its potential effects on the LEC bond.

Breaking it down

The maximum price for the building by itself was set at $7.1 million after a change order last year. Thus far, the building construction has cost $6.3 million.

That doesn’t include professional services and land acquisitions that were done before the current board took over in April 2011. It also does not include furnishings, which Lee and his board members said they were not initially responsible for.

The board approved Monday $256,000 to pay for furniture, but police Chief Brett Evans said he will still need to find funds for copy machines, phones and Internet, refrigerators and audio-visual equipment.

Lee said the additions could be funded through the police department’s condemned funds from confiscated property. Neither he nor Harte responded to a Telegraph request for the amount in that fund.

After buying furniture and shelving, and paying some outstanding bills and estimated interest costs on the 2012 SPLOST bond, there will be about $140,000 left over from the $9.45 million earmarked for the project, according to Harte.

Lee said if nothing else comes up, the remainder will go back to the city’s coffers.

He added, however, that additional drainage has been identified as one cost that has not been calculated.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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