WARNER ROBINS -- Billed as highly functional and efficient, the $6.98 million Warner Robins Law Enforcement Center is now about halfway complete.
City officials took a tour Thursday, along with area media representatives.
JMA Architectures Jim Mehserle, who led the tour, told those assembled the project is on time and within budget.
We couldnt ask for it to go any better, he said.
The target completion date is Jan. 30, 2013.
The two-story building, which is about 40,523 square feet, is located at the corner of Watson and Armed Forces boulevards and near Ga. 247 across from the main gate of Robins Air Force Base. The address is 100 Watson Boulevard.
Divisions housed within will include administration, records, patrol, K-9, evidence storage, investigations, criminalistics and traffic. The narcotics division, which includes officers who work undercover, will be housed elsewhere. The police department employs 161 people, including civilian staff and sworn officers.
Police worked with JMA to best meet the agencys needs, Mehserle said.
For example, a large briefing-conference room where patrol officers gather before hitting the streets is located near the back on the first floor with immediate access to secured staff parking and patrol vehicles.
This allows for officers to be quickly mobilized after roll call and a briefing, he said.
Also, administrative and detective offices are on the second floor near criminalistics, which consumes the largest portion of the floor for all sorts of crime scene investigative work from fingerprint analysis to weapons testing to computer forensics.
Mehserle said the criminalistics division is top-notch, with other agencies often utilizing the expertise of the departments crime scene investigators.
Police Chief Brett Evans said the building that will house the bulk of his agency has finally caught up with the expertise and skill of his officers.
He said the functionality of the facility is tied to performance. He hopes the new building will enable his officers to better solve and crack down on crime -- noting if one burglar whos behind a series of burglaries is taken off the streets, theres a direct decrease in crime.
Evans also said the new digs should boost morale. For example, he said the morale of an officer cannot help but be impacted when a patrol officer has been out on-duty wearing an air-proof polyester uniform and a bullet-proof vest and then returns to the current facility on Young Avenue where the air conditioning only works about half the time.
Mayor Chuck Shaheen said part of his job is to make sure residents are safe and protected, and the way to do that is by taking care of the citys police officers.
He said the new building reflects professionalism and that city leaders are interested in their officers.
Shaheen also said he expects the new building to serve as an anchor for the rejuvenation of that part of town.
Heres a look at some of other features of the new facility:
The public entrance along Armed Forces Boulevard includes a lobby area built with ballistic panel. The bullet resistant panel provides a level of protection the support staff of the police department has not previously had, Mehserle said.
About 90 percent of the public interaction with the police department will take place in this area, which includes records, he said. Public parking will be on this side of the building.
The property division where evidence is kept is the largest area of the law enforcement center, Mehserle said. Located on the first floor, the property division includes a specially-designed room to house biological evidence, he said.
The intake area on the first floor where suspects are processed and held for transport to the Houston County jail includes two adult holding cells and one juvenile cell, Mehserle said. The intake area is located near the sally port where suspects are brought in through a bay capable of housing four patrol cars, he said.
Something new for the police department is an indoor-outdoor kennel for police dogs.
Directly above the public entrance on the second floor is a welcome/lobby area outside offices for detectives and administrators.
Among the additional provisions for criminalistics is a blast-proof room where potentially explosive chemicals used in crime scene processing will be stored. In the event of an explosion, materials would be expelled up and out through a hole designed in the roof, Mehserle said. Stressing that the department has never had such an explosion, he said the room provides an extra level of protection.
Special lighting along the hallway of the second-floor interview rooms will allow for one-way viewing of police interviews with suspects or persons of interests, Mehserle said.
Also on the second-floor is an exercise room thats located near a large restroom/shower area.
The police department is going to be like heaven to them compared to what they have now, Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins said as she walked through the building.
Councilman Paul Shealy said, Its been much needed for so many years. ... We cant wait until we can step into it.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.