NORTH LIBERTY — In April 2019, the city of North Liberty broke ground at the corner of Cherry and Main streets on a new station for the city’s growing police department.
Police Chief Diane Venenga earlier told The Gazette that the department had “completely outgrown” its station at nearby 5 E. Cherry St., where it had been operating out of for about eight years.
That building wasn’t actually designed to hold a police department. It was a farmhouse converted into a dental office that in turn served as city hall.
After the groundbreaking last year, officials told The Gazette the roughly $5.7 million police station would be finished by April 2020.
What’s happened since
Like so many other projects, police stations are not immune to the impact of COVID-19.
The police department just started moving into the new station this past week, Venenga said.
“We were on schedule to finish in April, then COVID hit and really delayed things,” City Administrator Ryan Heiar said. “Between contractors having to split shifts and reduce on-site employees to delays in shipping, the project really slowed down.”
There are a few items left to complete, but a temporary occupancy has been obtained and police now are operating out of their first building actually designed to house a police department.
“It feels great” to be in the new facility, Venenga said. “It’s nice to have space to move around. And it’s also nice to have space that we can put everything in and be organized and just make it an efficient operation since it was designed for a police station.”
Venenga previously told The Gazette that evidence was stored in a furnace room and meetings were held in the hallway at their previous station.
The new 16,000-foot facility addresses those issues, Venenga said. She lauded a training room that can host up to 50 people and can also be used as a public meeting room, as well as the laundry area and locker room. She said officers are already using the building’s workout area.
The building features a secure detention area where officers can safely detain suspects before transporting them to jail. A sally port will allow officers to secure and process vehicles. The new station also has its own forensics lab, which will cut down the amount of evidence the department sends to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation crime lab.
“We have room to grow in this facility — up to 40 officers,” Venenga said.
The department currently employs 24 sworn officers and two support staff members.
Moving into a facility big enough and designed for a police department is “definitely a morale boost,” Venenga said.
“The officers are excited to come to work and use the facility,” Venenga said, noting officers have an easier time doing things like entering evidence into a computer. “It’s quick and easy for them to take care of what they need to take care of.”
The police station is part of what city leaders ultimately envision as a civic campus. Heiar said the nearby fire station was just repainted and new doors have been ordered.
“These aesthetic and functional improvements will match the colors of the new police station and further enhance the whole civic campus concept,” he said.
Heiar expects the City Council to discuss a new City Hall later this year.
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