FARGO — After 2 1/2 years of planning and waiting, the Fargo Police Department hopes to be in one location by this summer after bids of $1.7 million were approved Monday night, Jan. 14.

The second and final phase of the project, expected to start by mid-February, will involve remodeling the first floor of the Border States Electric corporate headquarters into administrative offices in the south half of the sprawling structure at the corner of First Avenue North and 25th Street.

Police Chief David Todd said the new police headquarters will a big improvement as it has been challenging in the past years to have staff at four different buildings, including the downtown headquarters by the Civic Center, the investigation unit across the street in the public health building, the substation at 25th Street and 13th Avenue and about 130 patrol officers in the north half of the Border States building.

He said the consolidation should improve efficiencies and management of the department.

The remodeling project will also involve creating space for a public lobby, records, a media room and an evidence room.

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In a cost-saving measure, the investigation unit will be able to move into the offices already on the second floor of the BSE building, and Todd said he hopes they can move in prior to the other work being finished.

There will also be some minor work in the north half of the building where police vehicles have been parked indoors in a warehouse and about 130 officers currently have locker rooms, workstations and meeting rooms. That first phase of the move was made in November 2017.

Todd said the second phase of the project should be done by Aug. 31.

BSE is moving its final employees out of the building in mid-February to its new $18 million headquarters near the intersection of Interstates 29 and 94.

When the police headquarters is finished, Todd said they should have more room for the 212 police department employees, which includes about 180 sworn officers.

The department has grown from about 105 officers in 2000, Todd said, with most of the growth taking place in the past four years. He said the structure should allow for more growth in future years and that he's looking at the facility to have a lifetime of at least 30 years.

The building is next to the city's Public Works Department, which Todd said is another big advantage as gas pumps for police vehicles are just across the street as well as mechanics if any vehicles need repairs.

Todd said another advantage of the location is that being near Main Avenue and 25th Street should provide easier access and faster response times for officers to different parts of the city than from downtown.

The current police headquarters will now be for sale, Mayor Tim Mahoney announced last week.

The city will be leasing the new headquarters for four years, with the option to buy it then at the appraised value. The north half of the building has been subleased since 2017.

City commissioners, before approving the bids, said they wondered about the cost of purchasing the building down the road and if the price might increase. City Administrator Bruce Grubb said with the specialized nature of the building he didn't think it would increase that much.

He also said that the building is owned by a group of investors. who are currently unwilling to sell the building. Grubb said they originally wanted a lease for 20 years, but that it was negotiated down to four years.

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said they really got the "bang for the buck" by remodeling an existing building as Todd told them a new structure would be substantially more.

Todd also told the commissioners they are purchasing the furniture in the BSE office building from them for an additional cost and that the bids for the remodeling were well below estimates.

The bids accepted were from Meinecke-Johnson Co. for general construction at $1.07 million, Peterson Mechanical Co. of Fargo for $203,400 and Grotberg Electric of West Fargo for $430,000.

A committee is studying moving the law enforcement dispatch center from downtown into a building near the new police headquarters, but that decision involves all of the metro law departments.