The old theological term "kairos" describes a "propitious moment for decision or action." That sums up what Marty Connell says he's offering city leaders.
On Wednesday, Connell showed city staff and a trio of Billings City Council members around a 41,000-square-foot section of Kairos Center at 1375 Montana Ave. Using part of the building could be a less expensive and much larger alternative to constructing a new police evidence facility.
Once the Pierce Packing plant and home to a number of other businesses since it was constructed in 1906, the portion of the building that Connell is offering — with its thick concrete floors and walls and secure space below to park police cruisers and vehicles that are involved in court cases — would be more than $1 million less than new construction.
The portion being offered would cost the city $1.4 million as is or $2.4 million with the improvements necessary to house the more than 65,000 items now stored at the current over-stuffed evidence facility at 4848 Midland Road, across the street from the Billings Operations Center.
The lease price, Connell said, is $10,000 per month as is or $16,600 per month with improvements.
The proposed new evidence building, designed by Schutz Foss Architects for construction adjacent to the current one, would cost about $3.5 million. Together with the repurposed current building, the square footage available through that option would be about 22,000.
Whichever facility is selected, the city would have to spend an additional $500,000 on new furnishings and equipment.
The City Council is scheduled to take up both options during its July 17 work session. During an earlier session, council members by consensus turned down other existing buildings for conversion into an evidence facility for reasons that included location, size and security concerns.
An elevator has been installed in the Kairos Center, but plenty of floor and stair work remains, as well as the installation of a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
Connell said he wanted to show the building to staff and council members and answer their questions before further preparing the building for use as a possible evidence facility.
Kairos Center, 240,000 square feet in all and part of the East Billings Urban Renewal District, includes a secure gated parking lot and an overhead door with access to a secure drop-off parking area beneath the first floor.
City Administrator Tina Volek said she and Connell will work to set up a second opportunity for council members unable to attend Wednesday’s tour, which included three of 11 council members — Mike Yakawich, Brent Cromley and Dick Clark.
Following the tour, Police Chief Rich St. John said that while he commended Connell for his vision, concerns he has already communicated to the council remain: It’s away from the BOC campus, there’s “an awful lot of work to be done” to prepare the Kairos Center for city use and safeguards must be ensured for “the proper management of evidence.”
St. John said he’d prefer the city own the evidence building, as it currently does, rather than lease an evidence repository.
“There’s no doubt it can be made into a usable space,” St. John said, “but it’s going to take a chunk of dollars.”