The Reno City Council on Wednesday approved $19 million of the $62 million needed to make improvements to the former Reno Gazette Journal building purchased by the City of Reno for use by the Reno Police Department.
The city purchased the building in 2019 to house what it is calling a new public safety center. At that time, the city did not have a plan to pay for the necessary improvements for the building on Kuenzli Lane–to the tune of an estimated $33 million.
The estimate for the building to become useful since 2019, however, has doubled. The new estimate has grown to $62 million, according to the city’s engineer Kerri Koski.
The amount is needed for phased improvements to the building. She said the increase is due to pandemic-related increases in labor and materials as well as anticipated future cost increases.
Phase one, which includes the property purchase and structural upgrades is estimated at $29 million. Phase two is $33 million. The Pennington Foundation is paying $5 million, city property sales, “excess fund balances” and “other general fund monies, which included insurance reimbursements and other reimbursements.”
Council member Jenny Brekhus was the lone no vote against the contract approval. She said other city capital projects, such as a swimming pool she has been advocating for, are convoluting funding priorities as well as debt being used to finance the project.
Other council members disagreed.
“I think it’s a fantastic use of governmental resources,” said Council member Devon Reese.
Mayor Hillary Schieve agreed.
“I think our police department is incredible and very, very worthy,” she said.
City Finance Director Deborah Lauchner said the new debt to fund the project should not be an issue because the city “is in a pretty healthy position right now in our budget. Our revenues are still exceeding our budget. I believe that our budget can handle this.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.