New center to aid public safety goal
Bentonville police have outgrown space
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.