Fruita steers dollars to new police station

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—“We’re just running out of space,” said Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo, shown outside the police station, which city leaders have committed to remodeling and expanding in a project they hope will begin next year. The estimated cost: $1.2 million.

Like every other aspect of municipal government, the Fruita Police Department felt the impact of the growth boom in the past decade, when the population of Fruita nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010 to more than 12,000 residents.

The number of police employees increased at the same pace, from 11 to 22. But while the city invested nearly $40 million in a community center and a new wastewater treatment plant, detectives, officers and records keepers struggled with a lack of evidence storage and work space in a 30-year-old building that once housed a bank and City Hall.

Now that the community center is open and the sewer plant is near completion, city leaders are turning their attention to updating the police station.

The city has asked contractors to submit paperwork expressing their interest in designing and building a remodel and expansion of the building at 101 W. McCune Ave. The roughly $1.2 million construction project is expected to begin sometime next year.

“We’re just hurting for space overall,” Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo said.

Police are now working out of a 5,450-square-foot building. They recently acquired an additional 4,400 square feet of space that formerly was used for birthday parties, dances and other community events. A 2008 needs assessment indicated the Police Department needed roughly 13,000 square feet of space to operate effectively.

Officers have run out of room to store evidence, forcing them to keep it at the police station and two other locations. Angelo said the off-site locations where evidence is kept are not secure or properly heated or cooled, creating concerns that various pieces of physical evidence could degrade and become useless to police.

“We don’t have that problem as of today,” Angelo said. “But the longer we are in those locations, it just exposes that chance of it occurring.”

Police have no storage lockers, so they keep their uniforms, equipment and personal belongings in their vehicles, which are parked in an unsecured, unfenced lot on the north side of the station.

There is so little space in the station’s lobby that if officers are conducting more than one interview at a time or more than one person is waiting for help, additional visitors have to wait in a breezeway. That means records staff can’t see anyone who may be approaching the police station until they’re already at the front counter — a potentially dangerous situation, Angelo said.

The police chief noted the city considered relocating the police station to two other locations, but one didn’t provide sufficient square footage and the other didn’t become available for purchase.

City Manager Clint Kinney said most of the money for the police station will come from funds saved in the community center project. The City Council committed to setting aside $1 million from the city’s general fund to expand the pool from three lanes to five but was able to hang onto that money after the city built a five-lane pool within the community center’s budget.


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