After four years of delays, the long-anticipated police station remodel is under way with big changes and improvements on tap for the local department, which will be paid for through redevelopment funds for $605,000 and should be completed within four months.
Redevelopment funds cannot be used to hire or retain police employees as they are derived from a portion of the property tax increment that residents pay on their property taxes. The city’s Redevelopment Agency oversees the expenditure of these funds but state law mandates that the funds be spent in designated RDA areas to address blight and promote new development. Redevelopment agencies are allowed by law to fund the remodel of a public safety facility.
“General fund dollars (from sales taxes) fund public safety employees and are not being used to fund the remodel,” assured Oakdale Police Chief Marty West. “Unfortunately, sales tax revenues have declined drastically since the beginning of the recession and has led to police layoffs as well as positions being held vacant.”
The remodel project has been in the planning stages since February 2007 but the desire to remodel actually goes back to the mid 1980s.
According to West, the original plan in 2007 was to upgrade the prisoner holding cells, the employees’ locker and restrooms, the break room, the property/evidence area, and to expand the records and communications section using all the available space in the former Bianchi Community Center.
Conceptually, the department wanted to relocate the front entrance and lobby to the east side of the building and place dispatch and records sections in what was the former Bianchi Center. RRM (architectural firm in Oakdale) was the sole bidder on the project and met with city staff after the bid was awarded to begin designing the remodel. They completed their preliminary work and informed the city that the cost of a complete remodel (including those upgrades mentioned) would exceed $1.3 million. The city’s budget for the project was under $500,000. More meetings ensued, leading to the decision to remodel the station in phases in an attempt to stay within the city’s budget limitations. Police staffers prioritized the remodel and decided that expanding the property/evidence section and the restrooms and locker rooms were the highest priority. Unavoidable delays resulted with building plan amendments and as the result of retirements, reassignments, and transfers that occurred at both the city and with RRM.
“It will provide relief to an obsolete and very congested property and evidence section that is not properly ventilated nor temperature controlled,” West said of the remodel. “It will provide the department’s evidence and property technician with more space to better manage evidence and avoid added costs to rent offsite facilities needed to store property. It will also provide police employees with a larger evidence booking area and a work station for the evidence technician.”
West continued, “In addition, it will add much needed restroom and locker room facilities for our employees. It will include an advanced door security system upgrade that will enhance building security at a lower cost for the city to maintain. It will also create a designated report writing office with work stations for employees that offers privacy during telephone conversations or while preparing reports. Currently, employees conduct this business in the main corridor near the rear entrance. It allows for expansion to accommodate restroom and locker space for additional employees in the future. There will also be cosmetic improvements, along with the major remodel, that will add to the professionalism of the Police Department … a facility that the community can be proud of.”