Fruita police building’s needs taking a back seat — for now

Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo is a patient man, both by choice and circumstance.

He and his staff of 16 sworn officers are facing space, operational and security limitations in the Fruita police station at 101 W. McCune Ave., which was built in 1981 and formerly housed a bank and City Hall.

But any effort to address those issues is taking a back seat for the time being, given the roughly $40 million the city is investing in building a new wastewater treatment plant and a community center.

The city budgeted $200,000 in capital funding in 2009 and plans to set aside that same amount this year and in 2011 for the Police Department. But Angelo said he returned last year’s allocation to help alleviate a budget shortfall and likely won’t spend capital money this year or next because he doesn’t want to invest in any quick fixes.

“I’m willing to patiently wait to do this the right way,” Angelo said.

In the meantime, Angelo and city officials must decide whether they want to renovate and add onto the police station or move it to a new location.

The city hired an architectural firm in 2008 to conduct a needs assessment of the station and analyze the department’s future space and staffing needs. The same firm was retained again last year to look at another building in town.

Angelo said the 7,800-square-foot police station is structurally sound but with numerous shortcomings.

The rapid growth of Fruita last decade prompted Angelo to double the size of the police force, filling up the work space in the building.

Officers are running out of room to store evidence, forcing them to keep it both at the police station and at another location. Angelo said the department has had trouble with its evidence-storage cooling system, which increases the risk that evidence could be compromised.

Officers have no storage lockers, so they keep equipment and personal belongings in their vehicles. And they park their cars in an unsecured, unfenced lot on the north side of the station. Angelo said officers have found patrons from the bar across the street urinating in the police parking lot.

The police station is home to a 1,500-square-foot community room used for birthday parties, dances and other gatherings. That space will become available for police once the community center opens in about a year. But Angelo said more room is needed.

City officials estimate a remodeled and expanded police station would cost $1.3 million. That compares to an estimated $1 million to buy and move into another building in Fruita that the city was eyeing at one point.

Angelo said he would prefer to move to another building, saying the structure the city was examining would meet the Police Department’s needs for a longer period of time.

He said buying land and building a new station is too expensive.

“We want to spend our money wisely,” he said.


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