Police, fire, 911 dispatch, courtroom all in the mix

Firefighters to have better sleeping area, place for hazardous materials decontamination

Seven buildings. $98 million.

Grand Junction city officials have repeated those two figures for six months in response to questions, concerns and misconceptions about ballot measures 2A and 2B, which would raise the city’s sales-tax rate by a quarter-cent and exempt the city from revenue restrictions imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

But as city residents stick their ballots in the mail or prepare to head to a polling place Tuesday, just what would fill those seven buildings with “yes” votes? What would taxpayers receive for their $98 million investment?

Architects haven’t completed the design of the downtown complex or the three neighborhood fire stations, which would be built in fast-growing areas of the city. But fire and police administrators who have toured public safety complexes across the country claim enhanced safety, technology and improved internal communication will be hallmarks of Grand Junction’s initiative.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights of what the new buildings would contain, as well as elements that have raised the eyebrows of some skeptics in the community:

MAIN PUBLIC SAFETY BUILDING

Visitors to the three-story main building, which would house the new police station, fire administration, a new 911 dispatch center, a new municipal courtroom and an emergency operations center, would notice changes as soon as they stepped through the front door.

Gone will be the days of registered sex offenders, suspects, crime witnesses and victims and visitors funneling through the same entrance and interacting with officers in the same lobby.

Deputy Police Chief Troy Smith said an armed officer manning a desk in the lobby would take reports and direct people while providing an element of security. Those who want to file a police report would be able to enter a separate room to do so, offering them some privacy.

Officials are considering creating a “man trap,” which would allow someone in danger and looking for help to enter an area through a door that would automatically lock behind him or her.

The building’s design is intended to also enhance communication between employees and eliminate barriers between administrators and line-level employees.

Smith said the focal point of the building is a feature known as “Main Street,” a wide common area on all three levels that encourages informal meetings and opportunities to share information.

Main Street could help eliminate situations such as a recent one in which a detective and a patrol officer were working on an armed robbery case and had gleaned different bits of evidence, yet didn’t realize until later that they were investigating the same crime and shared information that could have solved the robbery earlier.

Smith attributed the gaffe largely to the fact that detectives and patrol officers work on opposite ends of the police station and rarely cross paths.


FIRE STATION NO. 1

The emphasis on the new downtown fire station appears to be increased space.

The estimated 30,000-square-foot building would contain individual sleeping quarters, an upgrade over small beds separated by curtains.

There would be a decontamination area where equipment and clothing used in hazardous materials incidents could be sequestered, washed and left to dry.

Firefighters typically drop their items on the concrete floor in the bays where firetrucks and ambulances are parked, Fire Chief Ken Watkins said.


OTHER ELEMENTS

Some residents have criticized some details of the initiative as self-aggrandizing and excessive, questioning the need for and cost of glass walls and ceilings, an 1,800-square-foot fitness and locker area in the main building and outdoor plazas.

Preliminary drawings for the buildings call for “civic outdoor plazas where the citizens may gather to celebrate and honor the important role of these civil servants.”

City officials say the glass will permit a lot of natural light in the building and is part of an effort to create an
environmentally friendly facility.

Smith said the portion of the fitness area that will contain workout equipment is small, fitting five or six people at one time.

As for the plazas, Smith said they “create opportunities for the public and police officers to have positive interaction.”

When officials toured a police station in California, they found children having a birthday party in a community room, he said.

“They got to form an entirely different relationship and idea (about police) than they did in their apartment or in their home when Mom or Dad get arrested,” Smith said.

Smith believes public safety is no different than any for-profit business in the country.

Just as customers do business with people they trust, he said residents are more willing to report crimes, share information and help solve cases if they know and trust the officers.

“This will really change the way this department operates,” he said.


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