Tours, discussion make need for new building clear

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monday night's special meeting at the McCook Public Safety Center should have been an eye opener for anyone who hasn't visited the police station or fire station recently.

Members of the public who joined the council for the event had to be divided into two groups to tour the jail, dispatch center, training rooms and fire barn. The number of people taking part tended to exacerbate the crowded conditions, but they did get a taste of the working conditions at the facility.

Small rooms crowded with wooden evidence lockers, narrow halls and every nook and cranny used for storage of records are only part of the problem. The building has been kept up over the years, but it was never designed to be a police station, having started life as offices and garages for the electric company.

The jail, where prisoners can be kept up to 96 hours, is sparse but clean, but has no fire sprinkler system, nor does the rest of the building. The electrical system has been stretched to capacity with the addition of desktop computers and the modern E911 communications system, and the facility is no where near compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition, bathroom and sleeping quarters don't allow full-time duty by paid female paramedics or firefighters, who are sure to be hired sometime in the near future.

Yes, we are in a recession, but as Community Hospital is finding out, now is a good time to conduct a building project. The hospital's construction project is running about 10 percent below budget, thanks in a large part to lower prices for concrete and steel as well as contractors eager to do the work.

When we call the police, ambulance or fire department, we expect and deserve a quick, professional response. People who provide those services deserve to be housed in a facility that enhances their ability to perform those duties efficiently.

What form it takes and how to deliver it most efficiently and effectively, is up to city officials, perhaps in cooperation with county commissioners.

But following Monday night's tour and City Council discussions, the need seems to be clear.

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