New cen­ter to aid pub­lic safety goal

Ben­tonville po­lice have out­grown space

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MELISSA GUTE

BEN­TONVILLE — A new dis­patch cen­ter will pro­vide much-needed space for the Po­lice Depart­ment and ad­dress the city’s goal of keep­ing the pub­lic safe, Mayor Bob McCaslin said.

Plans are in the works for a new two-story, 22,000-square-foot pub­lic safety com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­ter to be built on the south­east cor­ner of the Po­lice Sta­tion’s lot at 908 S.E. 14th St.

The cen­ter will be paid for with more than $3 mil­lion from bonds, money set aside and im­pact fees.

“It’s a needed as­set,” McCaslin said. “This ad­dresses the city’s No. 1 goal. Ev­ery mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s No. 1 goal should be the safety of the pub­lic, al­ways.”

The Po­lice Depart­ment has out­grown its space in a build­ing that opened in 1995 when the depart­ment had less than 50 em­ploy­ees. It was ex­panded in 2008 to make room for the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Di­vi­sion, McCaslin said.

The city’s pop­u­la­tion grew from 35,300 in 2010 to an es­ti­mated 47,000 now, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau.

The sta­tion is now “some­what in­ad­e­quate for all that goes on there,” McCaslin said, ex­plain­ing that there now are more than 100 peo­ple who work in the Po­lice Depart­ment.

The City Coun­cil last year ap­proved ad­ding four pa­trol of­fi­cer po­si­tions and one records clerk po­si­tion to this year’s Po­lice Depart­ment bud­get.

“We’re kind of bust­ing at the seams,” said Gene Page, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer. “We’ve turned ev­ery closet into an of­fice that we can. We’re just shoul­der-to-shoul­der.

“It’ll will be re­ally nice,” he said re­fer­ring to the new build­ing.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­ter will serve as a dis­patch cen­ter, an emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter, pro­vide space for the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Di­vi­sion and in­clude a multi-use space that could be used for ve­hi­cle stor­age and train­ing, ac­cord­ing to a memo Chief Jon Simp­son wrote to the City Coun­cil.

The coun­cil ap­proved hir­ing WER Ar­chi­tects and Plan­ners as the project’s ar­chi­tect at its July 25 meet­ing.

Simp­son out­lined how the in­creased pop­u­la­tion re­sulted in an in­crease num­ber of calls for ser­vice.

“Sim­ply stated, more res­i­dents, more busi­nesses, and more ac­tiv­i­ties and events cre­ate more calls for ser­vice,” he wrote.

The po­lice dis­patch cen­ter is also the ini­tial con­tact for fire and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices.

Po­lice calls for ser­vice in­creased from 48,402 to 57,193 from 2014 to 2016, ac­cord­ing to num­bers pro­vided by the Po­lice Depart­ment.

“The fa­cil­ity will in­crease the over­all qual­ity of Fire, EMS and Po­lice ser­vices,” Page said.

The 911 cen­ter has five dis­patch sta­tion though it was de­signed for four. The new build­ing will have room for 15, he said.

The new cen­ter will also be “weather hard­ened,” mean­ing it will be highly re­sis­tant to any type of vi­o­lent weather such as ice in win­ter or tor­na­does, strong winds and hail in the spring through fall, of­fi­cials said.

“We would be able to con­tinue to op­er­ate there re­gard­less if we lost power through out the city,” McCaslin said.

It’s an as­pect the city doesn’t have now, Page said.

Sev­eral ar­eas within the po­lice sta­tion will be re­pur­posed once the new cen­ter is open to bet­ter ac­com­mo­date the pa­trol and op­er­a­tions di­vi­sions of the Po­lice Depart­ment, of­fi­cials said.

Of­fi­cials are hope­ful con­struc­tion on the cen­ter will start by the end of this year.

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