Now split between the existing headquarters facility at 178 W. Main St. and the North Towne precinct on MLK Jr. Drive, which houses the Criminal Investigation Division, the department will roughly double its space with about 24,000 square feet of the new structure between Harris Street and Oak Hill Cemetery dedicated to the police department.
The 53,325-square-foot facility also will house Cartersville Fire Department headquarters and Station 1, and include areas shared by both departments, including exercise and multipurpose rooms. The estimated $9 million project is being funded with 2007 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars, and construction could begin in January.
"It is better organized space. The space utilization is better planned. Any time you occupy an old building, you're for the most part constrained to the footprint that building has and this allows us to create the proper flow inside the building from an architectural standpoint so that some of our functions are closer together," Chief Tommy Culpepper said. "It also creates more community within the agency. People are closer together and they're able to intermingle and communicate with each other."
In the early 1990s, the department moved to its current facility, a former funeral home. Previously CPD was housed in the old city hall building now solely occupied by the fire department at 19 N. Erwin St.
"I don't know that the city of Cartersville has ever had the opportunity to construct a police station for the police department, something specifically for our function," Culpepper said. "I anticipate it helping our internal operations and our internal communications because it's designed to do that very thing through the architectural process. It should make us more efficient. It should make it easier for everyone to work here."
Culpepper added the city currently leases the North Towne station facility because the police department has outgrown its current structure.
"Having everyone in one central location in a city our size, we can still do that, and it provides for that communication so the officers talk to one another and more people have more information on what's going on," Culpepper said. "People tend to become compartmentalized."
Although the department will have a larger facility when construction is complete, which could be as early as October 2011, Culpepper has no plans to add officers. "We're programming space that won't be used initially so that as time goes by and we need those spaces, we'll have them," he said.
Existing technology will be relocated from CPD to the new facility, but Culpepper has one addition in mind and says it will save money. He is currently working to place up to a $20,000 bid on a portable driving simulator up for sale by the city of Morrow.
"We [drive] everyday. It's cost prohibitive to go out and acquire enough land and the resources to build a driving track so a driving simulator allows us to put people in different driving environments, in bad weather and good weather, and high-speed pursuits and just normal day-to-day driving so they can develop better driving skills to reduce accidents and the potential for accidents, which will ultimately help save the city money," Culpepper said, adding a driving simulator could be used for all city personnel.
Officials had planned to purchase a driving simulator with funds confiscated from drug dealers for the new facility, but the mobile unit Culpepper currently has his eye on costs less.
For the police department, the new facility will contain offices for patrol commanders, criminal investigations personnel and administration, an armory and supply storage, locker rooms, a polygraph room, two suspect interview rooms and an offender book-in area. Like Cartersville firefighters, CPD officers provided input to architects to design the facility.
City leaders set to decide on LEED commissioning
One of the next decisions for city leaders is whether to spend extra dollars to have the structure certified as a green building. The city's new public safety headquarters is already designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's Silver level standards, but a third-party verification of those standards could cost another $70,000.
"It's more environmentally sound in its construction, more energy efficient, which saves the taxpayer money because it saves us money on utilities, so that's one of the emphases on the construction of the building is to have something that's energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible," Culpepper said.
If councilmen opt to spend the money, the building would be the first LEED-commissioned structure in Cartersville.
"My personal belief is that a facility constructed like this in this area -- since we have undertaken this type of construction for public safety headquarters, I think it's a great opportunity to demonstrate the city's commitment to doing what's right in terms of using the best practices in terms of having things that are environmentally sound," Culpepper said. "I think it would be a good hallmark to have a commissioned, certified building but I also understand the constraints with the cost -- you want to save money where you can. You end up with the same building, you just don't end up with the plaque on the wall."
City officials, including Assistant City Manager Dan Porta and Fire Chief Scott Carter, also are recommending the council seek the certification.
"I think it does set a standard for the community and as far as city staff are concerned, we always want to make sure we hold ourselves to the standard or above the standard that we expect the community to be," Carter said. "We're supporting the council's consideration of [certification]. To be very honest, if money is tight and it gets down to the choice between spending $70,000 to get a certificate and getting a critical need for the complex, now that will be a hard decision that will have to be made at the end of the day.
"But I think that the return to the community with improved construction standards community-wide and the fact that it is a draw to business or commercial, industrial aspects. They look at Cartersville and say, 'This is a progressive community. They're doing it the right way and we want to be a part of it.' So there are a lot of financial benefits down the road for the community as a whole by setting such a good standard."