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$44.6 million construction set to start Pact approvals, reduced cost clear way for Falls police, courthouse project

Construction is scheduled to begin by the beginning of January on a $44.6 million courts and police facility on north Main Street under project contracts approved Tuesday by the City Council.

The final cost has dropped from estimates provided by the development team in September that projected the maximum price would be $45.1 million.

Mayor Vince Anello said lower project fees negotiated with the development team of Ciminelli Development Co. and Largo Real Estate Advisors contributed to the price decrease.

The Council approved the contracts during a meeting Tuesday, when it also created a new contingency account in the 2008 budget for city expenses that may arise when Mayor-elect Paul A. Dyster takes office in January.

Several city leaders said they were relieved that the construction documents for the courthouse project were in place, but raised concerns about the length of time and public debate it took to reach the construction phase.

"Thirty months is a long time," said Councilman Lewis "Babe" Rotella, before approving the contracts. "Who's got the champagne?"

The documents are the final agreements needed to begin constructing the three-story, 130,000-square-foot building, which will house four city courtrooms, police headquarters and the city jail. The building will replace the existing public safety facility on Hyde Park Boulevard.
Construction is expected to last until April 2009 and will be overseen by a three-member local development corporation formed by the city last week. Michael J. Hooper, owner of Hooper Realty on Main Street, will serve as president of the development corporation.

Anello urged the Council to use the new agency for other development initiatives in the north Main Street neighborhood.

"Unless you also address the issues of the neighborhood, it's not going to be vibrant," Anello said.

Work to demolish existing buildings on the project site started last month.

The building's $44.6 million price does not include the cost of furniture, fixtures and equipment for the building -- an estimated $2.8 million expense.

The state's Office of Court Administration has agreed to pay for its share of furniture, fixtures and equipment. The state will also pay for a portion of the project's interest costs.

Also Tuesday, the Council voted to cut $217,025 from Anello's proposed 2008 city budget and move the money into a new contingency account for "management flexibility" as the new mayor takes office.

Council members said they created the new contingency fund to give Dyster the ability to pay for new initiatives or to increase salaries for appointed positions depending on experience.

"This at least keeps it in the budget in case the new mayor needs it," said Councilman Christopher Robins.

The Council reduced several proposed raises Anello had added to the budget for mayoral appointees.

Anello had proposed raising the salary of the corporation counsel, who runs the Law Department, from $50,420 to $75,000, but the Council on Tuesday adjusted the salary to $68,000. The Council also reduced a $16,034 proposed raise for the city administrator and set the salary at $60,000. The original salary was $58,966.

The Council will meet again at 4 p.m. Thursday in City Hall to consider more budget changes. The 2008 spending plan must be finalized by Dec. 15.


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