CENTERVILLE -- When Police Chief Sid Andrews joined the force as a patrol officer in September 2000, most of the municipal services were all under the same roof.
Quarters were cramped and not well suited for the operation of a police department, even after the fire department moved to its own station next door and City Hall moved to a new facility on Church Street.
Security remained -- and remains -- an issue for the police department in the aging building on North Houston Lake Boulevard that the agency inherited through the years, Andrews said.
The holding area for those arrested is a cell that is dead bolted to the floor. Inmates have attempted to escape through the ceiling, he said.
The department also has no secure entry and exit to bring those arrested in and out of the police department, creating a risk of escape. One such escape a few years ago led to a manhunt through a residential area, and a Houston County sheriffs deputy got shot in the finger in a struggle with the escapee, Andrews recalled.
But those days will soon be over when the new Centerville Police Department, which is now under construction, is completed.
I never thought that I would be able to take part in an event such as this, said Andrews, who was promoted to chief in September 2009 after serving in varied capacities from patrol commander to head of investigations. Were going to have real jail cells, a sally port.
A sally port is a secured entrance and exit in which those in custody are taken in and out of the police department.
Were going to have a training room where we can invite citizens in the community eventually to a citizens police academy, Andrews said. Its going to be not only user friendly to our police officers, but its also going to be something that we can share with the community.
The $2.1 million project also includes the $350,000 renovation of the former library into Centerville Municipal Court. Court hearings are now held in the large conference room at City Hall.
City Administrator Patrick Eidson said the city financed the project, and revenue from the special purpose local option sales tax is earmarked to pay off the financing. Houston County residents voted to extend a 2006 penny tax in 2012 for additional projects such as the new police station and Municipal Court.
Recently, the police chief, city administrator, and Lucas Molina, the project manager for Perry-based Parrish Construction Group, along with others, took The Telegraph on a tour of the construction project. The target completion date is Dec. 27.
Andrews talked about some of the features of the structure designed specifically for police use. For example, the lobby is brick and includes bulletproof glass.
Its a safety feature for our employees, said Andrews, whose agency includes 24 sworn full- and part-time officers and three civilian staff members.
To get past the public lobby area, police personnel will swipe a security card to gain entrance to the rest of the 4,200-square-foot building.
The hallway opens up to administrative officers for command staff. Theres also a crime room for detectives that will be equipped with TV screens to watch interviews in an adjacent interview room. The interviews are filmed.
An evidence room is located between the hallway across from detectives and the large patrol division. This allows for evidence lockers to be set up in between the two divisions.
Evidence goes into the lockers on the patrol end and can only be taken out on the other side, which is inside the evidence room. Only the agencys two detectives, who are also custodians of the evidence room, may access the secured room and take evidence out of the lockers.
The building also includes an office for a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officer. The department has made a home for the agent for the past two years and has been able to rely on his expertise when needed.
In addition to the large patrol room, which will include individual desks for patrol officers and serve as the daily briefing room, there is an administrative office shared among the four patrol sergeants.
Theres also a large training room, where classes for the planned citizens police academy are expected to be held. The room also will be available not only for training by Centerville police but other law enforcement agencies.
The building also includes a larger evidence room for processing vehicles involved in crimes.
The new station includes a booking room, a sally port and two inmate cells. The sally port features see-through bay doors at both the entrance and exit. This allows for an arriving officer to be able to see inside before opening the door, which is an added security measure. A shower is in the bay area for inmates.
Also, a fence will secure the sides and back of the police department.
The new police station is located adjacent to City Hall, and the new Municipal Court stands in front of the new station.
Once all the work is complete, the city plans to erect a new sign and call the adjoining structures the Centerville Municipal Complex. The new station is expected to be known as the Centerville Police Department, officials noted.
The new Centerville Municipal Court is nearly completed. It also features a bulletproof window in the lobby.
A large courtroom has a back entrance that will only be used to bring those in custody from the jail to court. Theres also a side entrance for judges and court staff, another security measure.
Theres also plenty of storage for the Municipal Court clerk, a small conference room for attorneys and their clients and offices for the citys code enforcement officer and city marshal. Also, an office is provided for the probation officer.
The renovation has extended the life of the building for another 50 years or more, Eidson said. Thats a good use of public money, he said.
Andrews said hes excited about the project.
I cannot express enough gratitude to our citizens for allowing us the opportunity to move forward with this project, he said.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.