Vienna welcomes new police officer

Vienna Police Chief James Morris (left) in July 2018 presents a badge to new Officer John Wallace. (Vienna Police Department)

The Vienna Town Council on Jan. 7 approved an up-to-$318,950 contract with Downey & Scott LLC of Warrenton to provide project-management services for the upcoming renovation and expansion of Vienna Police Headquarters.

Too small when it opened in 1994, the police station, located at 215 Center St., S. has remained open 24 hours per day ever since and badly needs upgrades and more room, police leaders have been saying for years.

The town government put out a call for bids last October, received 13 responses and interviewed the top three candidates, said Vienna Police Chief James Morris.

Town officials several years ago mulled the possibility of alternating in phases construction of expansion-and-renovation projects at the Vienna Community Center and police headquarters. The Council eventually decided to finish the community center’s improvements first, then take up the police station.

Dewberry Architects Inc. is designing the new station under an up-to-$1,625,953 contract approved by the Council last October. The Council will review high-level concept layout options for the project at its Jan. 14 work session.

Town officials expect the new police station to cost an estimated $15.7 million overall and be finished in 2022. The Council in March 2013 paid Faith Baptist Church $489,200 for a single-family home at 114 Locust St., S.W., located adjacent to police headquarters. The house will be razed and the property used for the police station’s expansion.

Downey & Scott has 34 years’ experience in construction management and over the past five years has worked on more than 500 projects in Virginia, including public-safety facilities and schools, town officials said.

“I’m pleased to work with an experienced firm like Downey & Scott to help ensure that each phase of our construction project, as much as possible, runs smoothly and meets established deadlines,” Morris said in a statement issued by the town.

Council member Pasha Majdi, who cast the only vote against the project-management contract, asked if the money could not be better spent on other projects in town.

“I don’t think this is our top priority,” he said.

Majdi was not the only skeptic on the dais. Council member Howard Springsteen brought up the town’s previous failure to include a large enough contingency allowance in the community center’s construction contact.

While only 3 percent had been set aside for contingencies, a former project manager at the community center stated the contingency allowance should have been set at 15 to 20 percent for such a renovation project, Springsteen said.

Renovations at the community center fell behind schedule after town officials learned the high water table had compromised the five-decade-old building’s foundation, necessitating extra construction and expense.

“We did make a horrendous mistake at the community center,” Springsteen said, adding that the project went $3 million over budget. As for the police station, “we’ve got to make sure we have contingencies in effect to handle these issues,” he said.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco said town officials know not to low-ball the contingency allowance this time around.

“We are well aware that it needs to be higher,” she said.

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