Police Headquarters - We need one that we can afford.

Posted on 04/02/2012

The headline in the March 30th, Times said, "New Police Headquarters Scrapped". That is really not an option. There are several parts of the current buildings which range from the 1900's, to 1950's to 1970's, that do not work in any reasonable fashion. The evidence and labs are particularly inadequate. The computer room is housed in a fashion that does not provide for efficient operation or energy use.

The problem is one of math. The Penny for Pinellas budgeted funds totaled $50 million. The new projected receipts are $32 million. The plan that was submitted proposed spending $64 million. The current headquarters is 130,000 square feet. The plan proposed a 230,000 sq ft building and a 400 car parking garage. The original plan included an indoor police shooting range and a 250% expansion of the stolen bike storage area. That plan was revised down to 200,000 square feet.

Now, let me suggest some starting assumptions:

1) A newly planned headquarters should be more space efficient than the existing buildings so even the same space can function as bigger if well planned. Meeting rooms can serve multiple areas as an example.

2) Those portions that require large AC loads like computer rooms and some of the evidence areas should be separated conditioned. This reduces the need to heat and cool large areas to meet the needs of the computers and large refrigerators that store evidence.

3) A building can be designed to allow for a phased project. If designed well, it can look and function like one building after expansion with little additional cost.

4) 32 Million Dollars is not chump change and can build a significant building.

5) The city and county are in the early stages of discussing a possible merger of communication (911) dispatch. A merger of that section would likely not occur during the first phase of the new building. It would impact the space needed and the operating costs.

6) Most of the police officers report directly to their work sector rather than the headquarters. This lessens the need for additional space.

7) The building planners should be tasked with the job of providing the Mayor and Council with options based upon what money is available now. It is a healthy process to create downward pressure on available funds. This often leads to creative ideas to save money.

The Mayor and Council can not give up on this because money is tight. We can solve this and provide better, more efficient and more functional police services for our community.

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