The Fort Payne City Council learned during a work session this week that the former City Hall, which now hosts the Fort Payne Police Department, is in dire need of repairs to make it safer and more secure.
Architect Craig Peavy and designer Vanessa Vereschak of the Chattanooga firm Tinker Ma thoroughly inspected the building and discussed needs with Police Chief David Davis and Assistant Chief Lee Traylor.
“As the city grows, this police department has to grow,” Davis said. “We’ll have, in place, avenues to grow in that we won’t need a new building. We are looking at the future as well as what we’ve got now.”
Peavy estimated constructing a new jail and police HQ would be triple the projected $3 million cost of the interior renovations. The exterior was recently given a separate makeover. He was confident the state building commission would allow some variances due to the historic nature of the building and genuine efforts to make it as safe as possible for all who enter.
Among the problems they hope to solve with the proposed new floorplan and removing old wiring is having a single, less confusing and more secure entry point for citizens and easier traffic flow for staff, while affordably complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They estimated the changes would extend the life of the building for another 40-50 years.
Taylor said the reconfiguration plan presented by Tinker Ma would address every security concern they presented while making it easier for local police to handle scenarios like a recent one in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation temporarily set up shop inside the PD while processing the local case of a man impersonating police officers.
A “war room” could take advantage of affordable mobile cameras to provide remote 360-degree video monitoring of events such as Boom Days. Secure space would be dedicated for storing evidence, training officers and accommodating the forensic lab.
While security from threats and preventing mold and removing asbestos are the primary concerns, Vereschak suggested some design touches that would pay homage to the exterior art deco theme and make it a more comfortable place for administrators, investigators and patrol officers to spend long hours, sharing space without being right on top of each other.
Peavy presented two scenarios. A “bubble concept” would involve sealing off portions of the 81-year-old building, with construction crews working in some areas while police staff continuing operations in portions. This was projected to cost as much as $5.1 million on the high end but more likely $3.4 million. Peavy instead recommended moving everyone out of the building and into temporary trailers, saying this should ultimately be more affordable at about $3.1 million and allow the work to conclude more quickly.
No action was taken at the work session, but it may come up at a future regular meeting.
In other business, the Council also reviewed the projected $5.9 million cost of a new sports complex. Plans call for it to exist on three levels. The top level would host two fields with synthetic turf, the middle level would have a concession stand and the bottom portion would have more fields with grass turf. The concession stand would need to be constructed first so the fields don’t get torn up with heavy machinery to add one. They projected it could be as long as 16 months before they are able to lay sod and put turf down.