Renovation of the law enforcement center shared by the Harvey County Sheriff's Office and Newton Police Department has been in the works for some time. The city of Newton in particular has been focused on getting something done — initially seeking additional space and improved working conditions for the NPD back in 2010.

Land was purchased for a new NPD facility, but as the projected costs for construction continued to blossom the city pivoted back to the option of working jointly with Harvey County to enhance the current building. Officially settling on the renovation option last year, the city and county commissions both gave approval to move forward with designs for such a project, which came back before the entities at a joint meeting on Tuesday — though Newton Director of Public Works Suzanne Loomis said there is still plenty to do before construction can officially begin.

"This meeting is really to just get you up to date of where we're at," Loomis said. "These are not final plans; these are not final numbers."

Generally, the plan is for design to be finalized within the next couple of months for city and county staff to review, put the project out to bid in December (with bids to be received in early 2019) and start construction in March 2019 — with completion slated for spring 2020.

Questions swirled from both the county and city on just how close the estimated costs would be to the final price. Neither Loomis nor WDM architect Kirk Jurgensen could speak to that any clearer — though both did note that the intent to continue using the facility while construction is going on could drive up costs (and affect the potential bids).

Price splits for both construction and architect designs project at about $1.9 million for the city of Newton and approximately $1 million for the county — making a grand total of $2,952,000.

That money will go towards installation of a new HVAC system (units and ductwork), new card reader door access locks, bathroom renovations on both floors, remodeling of front entryway stairs and ADA ramp, creation of new parking spaces south of Seventh Street and more.

One of the pieces that drew the biggest discussion was the security enhancements being made on the NPD side of the building — which will include a more partitioned off lobby to alleviate issues the department has had in the past, along with other upgrades.

"We've had fights in that lobby before," said Newton Chief of Police Eric Murphy. "This will allow us to separate those individuals without bringing those individuals into the inner workings of the police department."

"It's way more secure under this plan than it is today," Loomis said. "We're putting in bulletproof walls; there's going to be security cameras."

Movement of some offices — shifting administration and detectives to the back rooms — raised some concerns among the city commission, but Murphy assured commissioners that officers will still be able to respond quickly to any issues that may take place in the lobby.

Loomis said trying to get things to fit in the renovated space proved to be quite the task — and will continue to be so during construction as certain offices (like the Emergency Operations Center) will have to relocate for a time.

Considering that, county commissioner Chip Westfall asked if it might be wise to look into renting a doublewide for temporary office space during construction — and setting it up outside of the current building if a portion of Seventh Street were to be closed of for staging during the project.

Meanwhile, County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber also pointed out the importance of continued public access — even as construction is going on in that main lobby area.

"There will be a time period where there will be no public access to this building as well, so we'll need to think about alternative public access," Swartzendruber said.

For now, design plans will be finalized and brought back before the commissions in late November/early December.