Hol­ly­wood wants $72.5M po­lice sta­tion

Mold, leaks, and lim­ited space make new build­ing nec­es­sary

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Local - By Su­san­nah Bryan

HOL­LY­WOOD – The roof leaks. The air con­di­tion­ers break. The toi­lets flood. The el­e­va­tors break down.

And when a pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane is on the way, the en­tire place has to be evac­u­ated.

We’re talk­ing about the Hol­ly­wood Po­lice De­part­ment, the gray four-story struc­ture on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard that first opened in 1975.

Be­cause the sta­tion was built be­fore Hur­ri­cane An­drew, it’s not up to cur­rent storm code.

Dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Irma in Septem­ber 2017, the de­part­ment’s 105 civil­ians and 321 sworn of­fi­cers had to evac­u­ate the build­ing. Two SWAT mem­bers as­signed to keep watch over the Prop­erty Room rode out the storm in an ar­mored ve­hi­cle out­side the build­ing.

A new po­lice sta­tion would cost

$72.5 mil­lion. But it’s all up to vot­ers whether they want to take on a

25-year debt that would raise their tax rate.

On March 12, res­i­dents will de­cide whether to bor­row $165 mil­lion to pay for a wish list of items that in­cludes a new po­lice sta­tion and high-se­cu­rity park­ing garage.

Hol­ly­wood Mayor Josh Levy says there is no way the cur­rent build­ing can be re­designed or retro­fit­ted to serve the de­part­ment as the city con­tin­ues to grow.

“You’d have to tear the build­ing apart, gut it and re­build it so it has the right ca­pac­ity to in­stall the tools that po­lice need,” Levy said.

Cramped lobby

The cramped lobby, grimy and gray, is the first thing vis­i­tors see when they walk through the doors of the four-story head­quar­ters on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard, just west of In­ter­state 95.

“This is the first opin­ion res­i­dents and vis­i­tors get when they walk in,” Po­lice Chief Chris O’Brien said. “I’ve seen 10, 15 peo­ple in here at any given time. And there’s only one win­dow to check in.”

What they don’t see are the four vaults that make up the de­part­ment’s Prop­erty and Ev­i­dence Room. Boxes are stacked al­most to the ceil­ing and atop rolling shelves be­cause, as the chief says, they’re sim­ply out of space.

“Items get mis­placed be­cause other ev­i­dence is com­ing in and it’s get­ting pushed one way or the other,” he said. Ev­i­dence is not get­ting lost, but it’s get­ting harder to or­ga­nize, he said.

Sewage leak

Ex­posed wa­ter and sewer pipes run over­head above boxes of ev­i­dence in some of the vaults, mak­ing for po­ten­tially dis­as­trous con­se­quences. In late 2017, sewage from an up­per floor flowed into one ev­i­dence room, soak­ing doc­u­ments and DNA swabs.

Ma­jor Derik Alexan­der re­mem­bers it well.

“We sal­vaged all the ev­i­dence as much as we could,” he said. “That was an or­deal. We had to have our em­ploy­ees and a bio­haz­ard waste com­pany sift through that stuff and fig­ure out what could be sal­vaged.”

Alexan­der, who has been with the de­part­ment 25 years, called the build­ing an em­bar­rass­ment.

“If we turn on a fan or a cof­fee pot or heater, that could throw one of the breakers and turn off elec­tric­ity to a sec­tion of the build­ing,” he said. “I turned on my elec­tri­cal teapot one day and turned off the power to the sev­eral of­fices on the fourth floor.”

The sta­tion’s out­moded de­sign sim­ply doesn’t work for to­day like it did nearly 50 years ago, ac­cord­ing to the chief.

“The build­ing is ob­so­lete,” O’Brien said. “We’re com­pletely out of space. We’ve had leaks. We’ve had floods. We can’t add any tech­nol­ogy to this build­ing be­cause our elec­tri­cal grid is tapped out.”

Bees and mold

Be­fore O’Brien took over as chief in spring 2018, his pre­de­ces­sor’s of­fice was lit­er­ally buzzing with bees.

A nest was found above the win­dow, where the bees flew in.

By the time O’Brien moved in, the bees were gone. But some­thing just as bad — mold hid­den by wall­pa­per — had taken over an en­tire wall.

“That was [my] wel­come to the new po­si­tion,” the chief said, point­ing to pho­tos of the moldy wall still stored on his phone. “They found

mold on the third and fourth floors. Now they’re check­ing the other two floors.”

Hot and cold

The new sta­tion, at 120,000 square feet, would be dou­ble the size of the cur­rent head­quar­ters, where some floors run cold and some hot.

“It’s a meat locker up here,” po­lice spokes­woman Mi­randa Gross­man said from the build­ing’s fourth floor one day this week. “It’s freez­ing on this floor. And it’s hot on other floors. That’s one of the prob­lems.”

On the third floor, which hap­pens to run hot, a por­ta­ble air-con­di­tion­ing unit sits on a desk in the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions unit. Nearby, de­tec­tives share space with an os­cil­lat­ing fan in an at­tempt to keep cool.

On other floors, peo­ple sim­ple dress for the cold — or bring heaters.

What it will cost you

If the pub­lic safety bond passes, a new po­lice head­quar­ters would be built to the south of the cur­rent build­ing. The old sta­tion would be de­mol­ished.

On March 12, res­i­dents can vote separately on three bond pro­pos­als: $72.5 mil­lion for a new po­lice head­quar­ters, plus $5 mil­lion for fire trucks and equip­ment; $64 mil­lion for parks and recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties; and $23 mil­lion for neigh­bor­hood im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing sea walls.

For a home with a tax­able value of $165,000, the bond debt would add $106 to the yearly prop­erty tax bill if all three pass. Here’s the cost break­down: $50 would go to­ward the new po­lice de­part­ment; $41 would go to parks; and $15 to neigh­bor­hood up­grades.

Hol­ly­wood has set up a link on its web­site to help res­i­dents fig­ure out what they’d pay if all three bond pro­pos­als pass.

To help res­i­dents learn more about the bond pro­posal, com­mu­nity tours of the po­lice de­part­ment are sched­uled for 10 a.m. Feb. 2 and 6 p.m. Feb. 7.

AMY BETH BEN­NETT/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SEN­TINEL

The lobby at the Hol­ly­wood Po­lice De­part­ment can get crowded quickly. It’s just one of many cramped places at po­lice head­quar­ters, of­fi­cials say.

/CHIEF CHRIS O'BRIEN, COUR­TESY

Mold cov­ered the east­ern wall of Hol­ly­wood Po­lice Chief Chris O'Brien's of­fice. The mold was un­cov­ered af­ter the wall­pa­per was re­moved.

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