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Building Boom: Construction, renovation projects by the city tally over $62 million

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In nearly nine years on the job, Jennifer Swan has never seen any time quite like the present.

“This is an unprecedented time for the city of Springfield,” said Swan, the city’s registered architect, noting the high volume of city construction projects.

In all, city building projects in planning to near-completion stage have a moment-in-time cost estimate of more than $62.8 million, according to city officials, though that figure comes from various funding sources and timelines.

Current projects target the Springfield Fire Department, with the addition of two fire stations, bringing the city’s total to 14, and renovations of two others.

The estimated cost of the four stations now in progress is $16.2 million.

Swan said the Springfield Art Museum soon will kick off the next phase of its renovation and expansion program being funded through its $25 million capital campaign.

Swan’s office, part of the city’s Public Works Department, oversees vertical construction, including new buildings, renovations and expansions. Other Public Works officials handle roads, bridges and stormwater improvements.

“We always have a lot of work, but it’s exciting to have this many brand-new, significant projects that are really high profile,” she said.

Deputy City Manager Collin Quigley noted some of the city’s projects are prominent ones, like the $10.5 million Historic City Hall renovation. The project is now in its schematic design phase, with construction scheduled to begin in June 2024.

“You don’t see that very often in a building of that age,” he said.

That project will use level property tax funds as well as federal American Rescue Plan Act funds because of its size and complexity.

A less visible project is the plan for a new animal shelter.

“That’s long been on the list of needs for the community,” Quigley said. “The current animal shelter is in an area that’s prone to flooding and can be very inaccessible at times. It’s not designed for how we want to care for animal needs.”

The new facility will be located on West Division Street near Kansas Expressway, he said.

“It’s a good location for animal control and for customers to get to, right off an arterial street,” he said. “It provides good coverage for the city and good access for citizens, so we’re anxious to get that project going.”

The $4.9 million cost will be shared by the city and Greene County, which jointly operate the shelter through the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Changing labor force
Springfield Fire Department Chief David Pennington said the new and renovated fire stations throughout the city reflect two important considerations: safety and a changing workforce.

The stations are being renovated  to include low-maintenance finishes, such as concrete floors, and they also have decontamination rooms to help keep soot and chemicals out of the living space.

He noted the stations that are being replaced were built with a different workforce in mind, with male firefighters sharing a bunkhouse type of room for sleep. It’s a consideration that may help with recruiting efforts for the department.

The remodeled and new-build firehouses have private sleeping quarters with three beds, each assigned to specific firefighters to accommodate them as they work on three different shifts.

“A lot of that is to address changing gender needs,” he said. “We can also meet emerging needs for folks who require some privacy for addressing personal issues. This gives us the ability to do that.”

The firehouses also have private restrooms with lockable doors for single-person use, and they are being equipped with mother’s rooms too accommodate the pumping of breast milk by firefighters.

Firefighters like the changes, Pennington said.

“Initially, there was a reluctance because this is not what we were used to,” he said, adding a perceived camaraderie from traditional shared spaces was at stake.

“Ask the team that works there, and they’ll say it’s really great. It gives them their space.”

A popular feature is a workout room.

“We consider our firefighters to be professional athletes. If you have ever watched them work, you would understand why,” Pennington said. “Each of the new facilities has a planned fitness area with workout equipment, and it is a huge fan favorite.”

Construction is finished at Fire Station No. 4 at 2423 N. Delaware Ave., even as it wraps up at Station No. 13 at 1900 W. College St. Station No. 7, 2129 E. Sunshine St., is an active construction site, while work on Station No. 14, planned for the northeast corner of West Chestnut Expressway and North Duke Avenue, won’t begin until 2026.

In addition, facility improvements to the headquarters of the Springfield Police Department at 321 E. Chestnut Expressway are planned and are currently in the professional design consultant selection phase. The estimated cost is $2.1 million.

Lower profile projects
The current projects come on the heels of some other vertical construction, such as a new scale house and storage building and additions to the maintenance building at the  Noble Hill Sanitary Landfill. A new landfill office building is in the design development phase, Swan said.

She said additional plans, still in the predesign phase, call for the Environmental Services staff, which is currently spread throughout several city buildings, to be brought together in one building which is being called the Environmental Services south campus.

 “The whole idea is to streamline operations so that they’re all there as a resource to each other,” she said.

That project will be paid for through the Environmental Services fund, she said, adding that once the staff is in a new location, its existing building can be renovated to house the city’s public grounds staff and equipment – similarly scattered now – in one location.

Springfield’s Hazelwood Cemetery is the largest municipally owned cemetery in Missouri, Swan said. There, a new building will replace a rundown maintenance building, which will be demolished, as well as a small office building in the middle of the cemetery.

“It will have accessible restrooms, and people can get to it more easily,” she said.

She added that the current office building uses a septic system, and the new one will be tied into city sewers.

Funding
Funding for the projects comes from myriad sources. Chief among them is the city’s level property tax, which generates about $8.5 million per year by assessing a 27-cent property tax for every $100 of assessed valuation of property. Swan said the tax has funded about $34 million in projects to date. Typically, it funds projects through the issuance of bonds that are paid off over multiple years, according to the city’s Department of Finance officials.

The city is completing its second set of bond projects from the 2017 level property tax renewal, according to Quigley.

“We’re wrapping up projects for bond one, beginning projects for bond two and making plans for bond three projects to be issued in 2026,” he said.

With funding from the city’s level property tax, ARPA dollars and other funding sources, there has never been more investment in city buildings, according to Swan.

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