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Batavia says no to police headquarters site in flood plain

BATAVIA – Following the advice of the city’s code enforcement officer, an advisory committee charged with endorsing a site for a new $10 million to $12 million police headquarters withdrew its consideration of a Jackson Street parcel located within the 100-year flood plain.

“I strongly discourage building in the flood zone. In the event of an emergency, we need it to be high and dry so (vehicles) can respond in a reasonable amount of time,” said Panek, a certified flood plain manager.

Panek and Assistant City Manager Gretchen L. DiFante talked about flood plain regulations and insurance issues at Thursday night’s police facility task force meeting at the current police station on West Main Street.

Batavia leaders are proposing a new police headquarters because of the deteriorating state of the former Brisbane family mansion that was built in the mid-19th century. City Council formed the task force to research several sites and report with a recommendation in July.

Panek said the city is “obligated” to follow FEMA’s rules and regulations, which include a warning against building critical response facilities in flood plains. He noted that Batavia’s fire headquarters already is in a flood plain and he urged the committee to not “make the same mistake that we made in the past.”

DiFante has been working to secure Batavia’s admittance into the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance discount program known as the Community Rating System. She said building in the flood zone could result in a lower rating and higher premiums for residents required to have flood insurance.

The committee accepted Panek’s assessment, and narrowed its choices down to two sites – a parking lot on Alva Place, which is in the center of the city, and a vacant site on Swan Street, which is on the city’s south side. Both are outside the 100-year flood plain.

Committee member Marc Staley said he favored the nearly 5-acre Swan Street location.

“It lends itself favorably to growth – possibly a parking garage and even some green space – and it’s only a tenth of a mile from Main Street and two-tenths of a mile from Ellicott Street,” he said.

Staley said he is unsure about Alva Place because of the amount of pedestrian traffic in that district, with the Genesee Area YMCA and Senior Center across the street.

The committee scheduled a public forum for 6 p.m. June 23 at City Hall. A report of the group’s findings will be followed by a question-and-answer period.