The Decatur City Council has been debating the police space issue for quite some time now. Even after trying to thoroughly research the issue myself – I still find myself scratching my head. I’m not sure what the real deal is. The problem is, the council seems as clueless as me!
To catch you up to speed, the Police Department feels that it needs more space; some of this is because they have more personnel; the other reason , maybe the bigger reason, is due to the fact they have to store evidence for much longer periods of time than they used to. In other words, they’re up to the ears in paperwork, evidence, computer systems, guns and donuts. It’s common for three officers to share the same desk while other personnel have no space at all. Not having toured the current facility myself, I’m going to take their word at it that they need more space.
There’s been several proposals and ideas (some good, some kinda goofy) for resolving the space needs. Some proposals include new construction; other proposals have suggested rehabilitating existing downtown buildings – namely the Millikin building (pictured above), which currently is occupied by Regions Bank. Regions will be moving to their new facility sometime this Fall. However, there’s been questions as to whether this building would be, or could be, up to code for a police station.
New construction has been proposed for the property directly east of the current jail. A “green” building has been suggested; satellite stations; a tent on the edge of town – ok I made that last one up but still the basic questions keep being asked and not answered.
A. How much will rehabilitating the Millikin building cost?
B. How much would new construction cost? (Last estimate was $15 million, do we hear a 20, a 30 a 40 million, sold to the highest bidder!)
C. Can the current facility be retro-fitted, remodeled and/or expanded to create more space?
D. How much more will the city be paying on a monthly basis for any of these options. (i.e.: electrical, water, rent, insurance, upkeep and maintenance, etc.)
Nobody seems to have clear answers. The only thing that has been made clear, by a 2003 study and an estimation of the police department itself, is that it needs somewhere around 60,000 square feet of space. It currently has somewhere around 45,000 square feet if you add up all of their different storage places and cubby holes. The city knows somewhat what our budget is. We know how much we can afford without raising taxes or putting the city in debt for the next 20 years. I have a feeling the only proposal that wouldn’t require higher taxes or big debt is the “tent of the edge of town” proposal mentioned above. We also don’t know precisely the costs that will incur over the long haul; a more energy efficient building might be more expensive to build but it would be cheaper to heat and cool, thus saving money in the end.
At any rate we need clear answers to clear questions, until then we’ll be discussing this issue for the next decade not knowing what’s up or down.