The city police department has seen better days, as cramped quarters and maintenance issues cannot meet current needs of the department.
McCook City Police Chief Ike Brown said at Monday's meeting that within the next couple of years, the city will have to address major maintenance needs at the existing police department, to the tune of $200,000. These include updating an aging electrical system at about $10,000 to $15,000, replacement of a deteriorating parking lot, for $120,000, and repair or replace an out-of-warranty, leaking roof, at $35,000.
At its special meeting Monday night, the McCook City Council toured the police and fire departments with the public, then sat down at the fire station to discuss various options concerning a new public safety center.
A new law enforcement center/city office building has been proposed for the West Ward site. Combined with a new fire station, the city is looking at construction costs for both buildings at about $6 million.
For the past two years, the council has set aside a total of $1 million from city sales tax revenue in the budget for a city-wide facility.
One of the options than came up Monday night was whether remodeling the current police department was viable alternative.
Councilman Jerry Calvin, a former McCook City police officer, did not think this was a good idea.
"The building is a dump. We've been band-aiding this building forever," he said. Calvin went on to say that it would be a waste of taxpayers' money to remodel the facility and that he didn't want to see that option on the table.
Council Aaron Kircher disagreed and said he was not willing to take any option off the table, if it meant saving money.
Red Willow County Commissioner Earl McNutt, sitting in the first row of the audience, spoke up and asked Calvin if the building was in such bad shape, why would the city want to offer it to the county?
"I didn't say you had to take it," Calvin quipped.
The proposed police/city offices building will include a dispatching center but not 96-hour holding cells; currently the police department has six holding cells. Red Willow County pays the city for dispatching fees and to house prisoners at the holding cells. If and when the city decides to move the department, the county would be forced to look at other alternatives for holding prisoners temporarily, McNutt said earlier in the meeting.
In addition, water and sewer pipes will require updating soon, along with six separate heating and cooling systems.
But the building would still be usable if the county wanted it for holding cells, Brown told the Gazette Tuesday, as many functions the police department now performed in the facility would not be needed. This includes electrical/ technology needs of the dispatching center or more parking space.
But as a police department, lack of space has become the determining factor for many issues the building faces, such as:
* the existing facility does not meet the needs of the department and cannot be remodeled due to the concrete walls. Originally built as a warehouse, the building is also not ADA accessible.
* lack of sufficient space does not allow the department to properly perform the necessary functions of police or communication services. Victims and witnesses must pass within sight and sound of each other, Brown said, which creates a potentially dangerous situation and intimidation of witnesses.
The interview rooms are not sufficient to meet state and federal mandates for recording evidence and current facilities are not suitable for interviews of some victims of child abuse, domestic abuse and sexual assault.
* the dispatch center is not large enough for all functions required and there is no room to expand. In addition, the dispatchers are not secure or safe, with only a sheet of plexiglass separating them from the public.
* office space must be used for storage as the building has run out of room.
A new facility would meet the needs of the community for the next 50-70 years, Brown said, and be designed for efficiency and proper functions of a police station.