Snellville PD back where it wants to be -- in the heart of the city

Photo by                                 fds

Photo by fds

SNELLVILLE -- Snellville police will cut the ribbon on their new home today, finally showing the public the 30,000-square-foot building officials are proud to say "is actually designed to function as a police department."

Several years and $6.5 million in SPLOST funds after determining a need, the department has begun moving out of its cramped, former Gwinnett utilities facility on Springdale Road.

It will soon be launching operations from its new home base, a state-of-the-art building more than tripling its size and putting it back in the heart of Snellville on Wisteria Drive.

"They love it. It's their building," Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said. "They're very happy and we're all happy. We're moving the police back to where they need to be -- in the middle of Snellville."

The building was officially turned over to the city and the police department on Monday. It will take a few weeks to get the massive new communications system running, not to mention the time it will take to get the department's 53 employees -- 43 officers and 10 civilians -- settled into their new digs.

Oberholtzer credited Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead with masterminding the overall plan for the facility's amenities. Both repeatedly stressed the importance of having a building specifically designed to accommodate all the needs of a police force.

"It's just totally different," Whitehead said. "Everything in it is state of the art. Every area is just designed so that we can grow."

In addition to "just more space in general," Whitehead said, the list of features in the new department is long.

Included is an in-house forensic lab (a first for Snellville PD), outdoor kennels for K-9 units and a sally port (a sort of secured garage that allows police vehicles to pull inside the building before removing alleged criminals). The communications center has tripled in size, there are updated holding areas, and the full ability to do fingerprints and background checks around the clock.

A pair of training rooms and interview facilities equipped with cameras enabling interrogations to be watched from any office are among the higher-tech additions.

An emergency generator will help out in dire times as well.

"If we have another snow emergency, that's where I'm going to be," Oberholtzer said.

The convenience -- and importance for public safety -- of being located near City Hall and the center of Snellville can't be understated either.

"Definitely my thought was we're going to be back in the center of the city," Whitehead said. "It gives us a more strategic location for responding to incidents within the city."

Even in tough economic times, the new building was made possible by special-purpose taxes from 2005 and 2009. After today's ribbon-cutting, the facility will be open for public tours beginning Sunday, Oberholtzer said.

After the fiber-optic communications system is up and running, dispatch will be moved before officers and brass are staggered into their new home in coming weeks.

"It's a tremendous asset to the city," Whitehead said, "and we're just extremely proud to be in a facility of that type."