The Moniteau County Sheriff's Office wants a new home.
County officials attended a meeting Thursday at the old Veterans of Foreign Wars location, adjacent to the county jail on East North Street, to discuss options for constructing a new sheriff's office facility. While a new county jail was constructed in 2013, budget concerns kept the sheriff's office at its old location until 2018, when mold and water seepage issues finally shuttered the 1982 facility for good -- resulting in its demolition earlier this year.
After more than four years in the former Mid Mo Ambulance District base at 110 N. High St., which was intended to be temporary, the sheriff's office wishes to build a larger permanent facility. Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley said the former ambulance base lacks space for meetings and training exercises.
"We have access to a lot of free training for the deputies and staff, but one stipulation on the free training is that you host a training (session), and of course we don't have a place big enough to host training anywhere here. We can't even have a deputies meeting at our sheriff's office because it's not big enough to hold all the deputies there at one time," he said. "But (the new building) is built to accommodate that, so that will give us more access to some free training that ... the county doesn't have to pay for."
Wheatley said his office would like to have a complex consisting of three standard metal buildings. He explained it would be cheaper to construct three connected buildings rather than one larger building.
"... we looked at red-iron buildings, one big construction, and the price difference in the red-iron building and a regular metal building is significant if you try to put it all under one roof," he said. He also explained standard metal buildings are expandable, whereas red-iron buildings cannot be expanded after the trusses are set.
An 80-foot-by-100-foot main building would feature offices and meeting spaces for the sheriff's office. Unlike the current sheriff's office, the facility would include a lobby that features an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant restroom. Wheatley said the lobby could always be open to the public. Beyond the lobby, the secured portion of the facility would also have space for other agencies (such as the Missouri Highway Patrol), an armory, evidence, servers and communication equipment, files, and meetings. A private ADA-compliant restroom inside the secure portion would also feature a shower for deputies.
Adjacent to the main building would be two garage facilities. A 20-foot by 40-foot garage would contain expandable space for evidence and files, whereas another 40-foot by 60-foot garage could be transformed into additional office space in the future if needed. Wheatley said the second garage could accommodate a minimum of six additional offices in the future at "very, very minimal expense."
While the buildings have already been designed, the location of the new complex is still up in the air. Wheatley said options for properties that can be developed are limited and increasing in price.
"Property, the size that we need and where we need it, is limited," he said. "It's scarce, and if it is (available) they want a fortune for it."
Two of the four properties Wheatley presented at the meeting were inside California city limits with city utilities. He said commissioners limited construction of a new facility to inside city limits due to concerns regarding utilities and annexation.
The cheapest option in city limits, located on the southeastern corner of Windmill Ridge Drive and East Buchanan Street across from Valley Park Retirement Center, would cost $145,000. Wheatley said the property is level, requiring minimal ground work. The property would allow the sheriff's office to expand to the south in the future. However, the property is a shallow lot and is located in a residential area.
The other option in city limits would be significantly more expensive. This property, located on East Buchanan Street, west of Nathan's Tire Shop, would cost $249,000. However, this property is in a prime location and has space for expansion in all directions. The owner of the property proposed a 15-year triple net lease option, where they would lease the building to the sheriff's office. On top of $9,500 per month for the lease, the sheriff's office would be required to pay property tax, insurance and maintenance costs for a facility they would never own.
In addition to considering locations for the new facility, the sheriff's office presented two bids for the construction of the complex. Wheatley said most comparable sheriff offices spend around $1.5 million to construct their facilities.
The first bid, from Drinkard Construction, Get It, LLC, was for $604,537. Drinkard Construction also owns the $145,000 property at Windmill Ridge Drive and East Buchanan Street. The total turnkey cost, from purchasing the lot to having a building they can start using immediately, would be approximately $750,000.
The second bid, from Siteworks Building Group, was for $698,686. BJ Kruger, owner of Siteworks, owns the $249,000 property on East Buchanan Street. The total turnkey cost of the project, including purchasing the lot, would be approximately $950,000.
Wheatley said the sheriff's office is seeking quotes from different banks to secure the best deal if the project proceeds. One proposal he gave to Tipton Latham Bank was a six-year, lease-to-own contract for an $800,000 note where the bank would construct the facility and sign it over to the county after it is paid off. He also said funds from Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax passed in 2020 with language to "maintain and improve operations of the sheriff's office," could be utilized for the project. Proposition P funds are split between roads/bridges and the sheriff's office. Wheatley wrote in an email that his office is trying to construct the facility without affecting the county budget or using capital improvement funds.
The new facility would not only enable free training opportunities, but Wheatley said it would also boost morale among his staff.
"The guys need a place that they can safely work out of and a place they can be proud of, and gets us out of that temporary location," he said. "I think it will help lift the morale of the guys and things like that."
County commissioners and Moniteau County Sheriff's Office officials will reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday at the commissioner's office in the courthouse to continue discussion on constructing a new facility.