Construction of a new police department for Van Buren is expected to begin in March.

Members of the Van Buren City Council Monday night voted 6-0 to enter into a construction contract with Crawford Construction Co. to build the police station on the site of the former Sherman’s Grocery Store on Fayetteville Road.

The contract is for $3,567,615.

"It has taken awhile to rework the original plans," Mayor Bob Freeman said, "but we now have a good set of plans and we are ready to go."

Freeman said construction was delayed after it was decided to utilize a former lawn mower shop at the back of the property for an evidence room and additional storage.

"Crawford Construction has done a great job," the mayor said. "They are using a lot of local contractors."

Construction time is estimated at 14 months.

The new station is being financed by a sales tax approved by Van Buren voters in July 2012. The tax also will fund a fourth fire station and a senior inn as well as improvements to the park system.

At Monday’s meeting, Freeman also presented his annual state of the city address.

"I am very grateful to live in a community with a commitment to step forward," Freeman said. "Our citizens should be proud of that commitment."

The mayor also praised the desire of the city’s six aldermen to be public servants.

"Things would not happen without that commitment from the council," he said.

Freeman said much of the progress would not be possible without voter support in approving the 1 percent sales tax in 2012.

"This is my eighth time to give a state of the city address," Freeman said. "Looking back to when we just had the library on our list, to where we are now, I’m pleased to see the progress we’ve made."

Alderman Donna Parker said the construction of the new library opened citizens’ eyes as to what could be done with a sales tax.

Freeman outlined several capital improvement goals for the city during the address. He noted improvements made at Pointer Trail and North 16th Street, construction on Rena Road, and the completion of the city’s municipal annex.

During 2014, the mayor said he expected to see the installation of new traffic signals at Kibler Road and 26th Street, completition of rehabilitation work on Interstate 540 and asphalt overlay and maintenance work on streets throughout the city.

Freeman said the city hopes to begin improvements to the Pevehouse bridge in May, a joint project with Crawford County.

Inn other business, the council adopted a revised 2013 budget that showed year-end actual revenues of $14,901,294.30 and $14,457,822.05 in year-end actual expenses.

Freeman also presented Alderman David Moore with a plaque and keys to the city for his 25 years of service on the council.