Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 29, 2003

Sliced and diced every which way, MH’s station is less expensive

“Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” ~ Author Aaron Levenstein

It’s difficult to compare the police stations being planned in Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Nevertheless, I did just that in last week’s column, noting that the current price tag for a police station in Morgan Hill is $9.45 million while Gilroy’s latest estimate is $26.7 million.

Because I know that the facilities aren’t duplicates, I attempted to compensate by factoring in the sizes of the police stations. When I divided $26.7 million dollars by 48,970 square feet (the size of the police station reported in The Dispatch’s Dec. 17 article), I came up with $545.23 per square foot for Gilroy’s facility. When I divided $9.45 million by 43,300 square feet (the size of the building Morgan Hill is converting to a police station), I came up with $210.16 for Morgan Hill’s new police station.

Gilroy’s Assistant Police Chief Lanny Brown wrote a letter to the editor disputing my figures. He factored in the GPD’s planned 55,000-square-foot underground parking facility (a feature the Morgan Hill police station won’t have, I note, because it’s being built on a site that doesn’t require an expensive underground parking garage), used slightly different square footage numbers than those reported in the Dec. 17 article, and came up with $255.12 per square foot.

If it’s fair to dilute the square-footage calculations with the pricey, apparently utterly necessary parking facility to arrive at a more palatable number for the Gilroy police station, then it’s fair to count the much less expensive conventional parking lot space the Morgan Hill facility will be using to come up with a new number for that facility.

So I called Lt. Terrie Booten of the Morgan Hill Police Department, who is in charge of that city’s new police station project – and she confirmed that the city is still planning to spend $9.45 million. Booten didn’t have square footage numbers for the parking space at the Morgan Hill station, but she did give me this much to go on:

• The new Morgan Hill police station will use 12,000 square-feet of indoor space to provide 24 indoor parking spaces

• She estimates that there will be 75 outdoor parking spaces (50 for the general public and 25 behind a fence for police use only)

So, if a parking space is approximately 153 square feet (which is what my Internet research shows), the Morgan Hill police station will have 23,475 square feet devoted to parking – 12,000 of it indoors and included in my first square-footage calculations, and 11,475 of it outdoors and included in my new parking-included-to-parking-included comparison: The city of Morgan Hill is building its police station and parking for $175.52 per square foot ($9.45 million divided by 54,775 square feet).

But there’s more. Morgan Hill is only using 37,000 square feet of its 43,300-square-foot building for a police station. In a smart fiscal move, the city is planning to lease the remaining square footage to a rent-paying tenant. Rumor has it that the city is talking to the county’s probation department. Others have joked that a donut shop or bail bondsman would be successful in the location. Me? I think Starbucks should give the 6,100 square feet serious consideration.

Because the city doesn’t need those 6,100 square feet right now, it can earn some rent from a tenant. When the police department does need that space, it won’t have to build another police station (or how about a second story?) to get it.

But I digress. The $9.45 million Morgan Hill has budgeted also includes, Booten told me, $660,000 for furnishings. She told me the police department is planning to make extremely limited purchases for furnishings for the new station and will move any usable piece of furniture from the current station to the new station.

I don’t know how much – if any – of the $26.7 million Gilroy’s planning to spend on a new police station includes furnishings.

The new Morgan Hill station will likely open this summer – not sometime in 2007, the current estimated completion date for Gilroy’s new station.

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” ~ Mark Twain

However you want to slice and dice the numbers, whichever way you want to stretch and bend them, however inconvenient it is for Gilroy that its closest municipal neighbor is planning a new police station at the same time for a lot less money, here’s an indisputable statistic: At current estimates, Gilroy will have one new police station that cost $26.7 million in 2007, and Morgan Hill will have one that costs $9.45 million in six months.

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