Police building on track

DULUTH - The Duluth Police Department is now spread over several locations, with some sections of the department sharing City Hall, some using facilities at W.P. Jones and Bunten Road parks, and some even using an old garage facility.

But that will all change in January when the department expects to move into its new facility on Buford Highway.

City Administrator Phil McLemore said the new public safety center is already up to roof height and on track to be move-in ready by January. The 43,000-square-foot building has 3,000 square feet set aside completely for future growth.

"The new building will also house the complete courthouse with room for a solicitor's office, for the judge and a law library," McLemore said.

Police Chief Randy Belcher said the building will include a holding cell - something the department does not have at its court facilities.

"We sometimes have to bring prisoners into the court and handcuff them to a chair," Belcher said. "And people in the courtroom are not always comfortable sitting next to someone handcuffed to a chair."

Belcher said he is also looking forward to the simulated shooting gallery to be included in the new public safety center.

There will be a maintenance garage with two vehicle bays for installation of lights and radios in the police vehicles, McLemore said. This is presently carried out in an old garage on Main Street.

The city broke ground on the new building in September. McLemore said half of the $11.9 million cost of the building was funded by bonds issued through the Urban Redevelopment Agency and the other half through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

He said smart management by the general contractor and project manager had kept the project $160,000 under budget. But the City Council did cut into that by allowing an additional $30,000 to upgrade the roof to a slate look-alike product instead of the standard shingles.

The architect, Richard Cleveland of Pieper, O'Brien and Herr, said he believes it is an award-winning building and the slate-type roofing will significantly enhance the exterior appearance.

McLemore said it is the first building in the city's plans to change the appearance of Buford Highway. The location previously housed a mobile home park.

"We have moved it up close to the road, similar to the buildings in downtown Atlanta, to give the area a more urban appearance," McLemore said. "The parking will be in the back."

The Buford Highway elevation will be at road level with a basement floor below. The 3,000 square feet allocated for future growth will be in the basement level.