WASHINGTON CITY – A groundbreaking ceremony was held for Washington City’s new and long awaited police station Thursday morning.
Various city officials, police officers and others gathered at the site of the new facility on 100 East in Washington City next to the city offices for the groundbreaking. The $3.4 million, 14,000-square foot facility will add much needed space for the police department and help meet the needs of the city’s growing population.
The current public safety building, located at 95 N. Main St. has been in use since the Police Department’s creation in 2006, and was originally meant to be a temporary situation, Washington City Police Chief Jim Keith said.
“We’re in a building right now that’s really not adequate in any way, shape or form for what we do,” Keith said, adding that police officers and staff have nonetheless done a great job with what they’ve had to work with for nearly 10 years.
The new building, slated to be completed by January of next year, was originally anticipated to be built in 2008, but was put on hold due to the recession. With the economy rebounding and continued population growth, efforts to get a new police station were back on track.
In January the city bonded for the construction of the new facility for a cost not to exceed $3.7 million. In its May 14 meeting, the City Council awarded the bid to Watts Construction for the police station’s construction.
“It’s been a continuous effort for a long time,” Keith said.
Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson said it was a historic day for his city, as it was getting it’s first actual police station.
“We’re excited to have this groundbreaking,” Neilson said, adding the city is also excited it’s police force will have a facility that isn’t bursting at the seams.
“… Our current Police Department is really packed,” the mayor said.
The new building will be around three times the size of the current one on Main Street.
Washington City is counted as one of the fastest growing cities in southwest Utah, Neilson said. Unfortunately, he said, increased growth also brings increased crime, which the new facility will help the police better address and deal with as the city moves forward. Kieth echoed that sentiment.
“Obviously, as we grow as a city, all of our departments need to grow as well,” Keith said. “We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the state, so with that comes the need for additional resources.”
Dan Drown, president of the Washington City Chamber of Commerce, as well as a Washington City Council candidate in the upcoming election, called the incoming police station a new phase in the city’s growth. He is excited for it, he said.
“I sleep better at night knowing my business is being watched over by our local law enforcement,” Drown said.
Once the new police station is built, Neilson said the city could potentially sell or trade the old property to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been buying property in the area around it. Before the city acquired the building for use as its public safety building, it was used as an insurance office, he said.
Originally pegged for more office and commercial use, the building has lingering security and public accommodation challenges in relation to functioning as a police station. City Manager Roger Carter said the new building will take care of those issues. He also said he hopes the citizens will be proud of the new police station once it is built.
“We hope our citizens look at and recognize kind of as a symbol of our growth and maturity as a community,” Carter said. “The Police Department has really kind of become one of our beloved departments in the city, and that’s a credit to Chief Keith and his crew, his department, for the work that they do in the community.”
Prior to the creation of the Police Department in 2006, Washington City contracted with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for its law enforcement needs. When growth determined the city needed its own department, Keith was selected to head the department, which started with 14 officers. That number has since grown to 23.
Videocast by St. George News videographer Sheldon Demke
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