By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News
In a few short days, the Gardendale Police Department will have a new home.
Crews are completing the new public safety center, located at the former Food World grocery store on Decatur Highway.
The move is necessary because the Gardendale City Council sold the existing city hall complex, which houses the police department, to a company that will build a CVS Pharmacy there.
The police department and city administrative offices will vacate the facility on Oct. 18-19, according to Mayor Othell Phillips. City hall will close on those days while furniture and telephones are transferred; the police department will remain open Oct. 18.
Officials have signed an agreement with Gardendale First Baptist Church to rent the old civic center building. Gardendale will rent until a new city hall is built at the city center on Mt. Olive Road next to Gardendale Elementary. The city will pay $2,500 a month in rent, which covers the utilities.
Police Chief Mike Walker will have his hands full during the transition. Not only will he oversee the massive move, but he must ensure that law enforcement does not cease in the meantime.
Walker said there will be no interruption in police service or in 911 service during the move.
The new public safety center takes up 19,500 square feet of the 56,000-square-foot building. The unused portion will remain empty for now. City leaders said they would consider renting the space to retail stores.
The building was originally scheduled to be completed by today, but Walker said the police department, magistrates and court will be operating in the building for at least two or three weeks before the project is finalized.
Walker said the new facility is roughly the same size as the existing police department. However, it does have some improvements.
One of his favorite parts of the new facility has to do with a major security upgrade: A ramp allows officers to drive inmates directly to a side door rather than having to walk them up a flight of steps, as was in the original plans.
Other improvements include the installation of more cameras, a more secure evidence locker and a huge generator that will run the entire department in the event of a power outage.
The facility also has some features the existing police department does not have, including equipment that allows individuals to visit inmates via video feed and never in person, a conference room and a men’s and women’s locker room.
So far, the city has spent more than $2.3 million to renovate the former grocery store. One of the biggest expenses was the addition of a new roof.
The funds are being drawn from a $3.5 million line of credit from Regions Bank.