WR mulls former Food Maxx on Russell for new police department

WARNER ROBINS — City officials will hold a special meeting Thursday at a site they’re considering for the new home of the Warner Robins Police Department.

The council approved the original sketch for the project and $9.5 million to build it at a meeting last month. The city received $5 million from a 2006 special purpose local option sales tax for the project.

Officials have argued the need for a state-of-the-art facility to house the department and its expensive equipment, most of which sits boxed because of a lack of space — or to prevent damage due to the conditions in the department’s current facility.

Thursday’s meeting will be at the site of the old Food Max grocery store, 814 Russell Parkway, a 62,000-square-foot structure that has been empty several years.

“It’s feasible financially and will save the city money,” Councilman Tom Simms Jr. said of the space, which would likely cost far less than $9.5 million to renovate. Simms said city officials have visited Henry County, which has renovated at least one old building for city use.

“The original vote that happened before this council (had been elected) was to approve a $5 million SPLOST,” City Clerk Alton Mattox said Tuesday. “And since the (proposed) building put out there for the public will cost more than that, we’ll still get the building, which is needed, and we won’t have to put the burden on the taxpayers.”

Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans said he met with officials Monday to look over the floorplan of the old Food Max building. He says he could see the department fitting comfortably in the space.

“I met with the builders and the architects and (Councilman John Williams) in (city purchasing agent) Mark Baker’s office, looked over the floor plan,” he said. “Outside of that, I don’t know any more of it. I’ve kind of left that up to mayor and council.

“Anything’s a step up from where we are.”

In August, the council voted 4-2 to approve building the new facility on Jimmy Perkins Memorial Field, to the ire of some in the community. But new Mayor Chuck Shaheen has been against a completely new facility. During his campaign, he mentioned renovating a building in the city as a way to save money on the matter.

Tuesday, he insisted that is still the way to go.

“That’s what people have been telling me all along,” Shaheen said about the more cost-efficient alternative. “There are more pros to putting it there than cons.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.