Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
By Kathy Thompson
Celina police department operating in two buildings
  CELINA - It's been nearly a year since the mayor announced plans to purchase the former bank building on Main Street to make more space for the police department and other offices. Currently the chief and detectives are working in an unsecured office space and dispatchers remain at city hall across the street.
Mayor Jeff Hazel announced in February his wish to buy the former First Financial Bank at 225 N. Main St. for $1.95 million. The plan was to relocate all of the city departments and offices except the fire department and municipal court.
Council members approved the purchase and the city took possession of the 36,000-square-foot building in June.
Hazel had said the police department would be the first to move into the new building, however, in July it was determined that communication complications were hampering the move into the basement. Officers were unable to use their cellphones and dead spots left radios inoperable, according to interim police chief Cal Freeman.
The cost for a new radio repeater system - more than $60,000 - to alleviate the technology problem was more than the city wanted to pay so the police department moved to the first floor, Hazel said.
The police department has been using the basement for training and storing evidence, which has worked out well, Hazel and Freeman said.
  City administrators are still looking into the possibility of moving the police dispatch center to the new building but it may take some time, the mayor said.
"This has been a work in progress," Hazel said. "We've been trying to figure out who will fit best where."
The dispatch office at city hall, 202 N. Main St., was recently renovated, including new carpeting, paint, a new door and new lights, Freeman said. Some of those expenses came out of the police department's budget and were about $550.
Shelley Shrock, deputy auditor for the city, said expenses for flooring, electrical work and clean-up came to $5,316 and were taken out of the general fund used for city hall maintenance.
Freeman said last week changes are now starting to be made to the first floor of the new building to safely house his staff yet remain accessible to the public.
Secured entryways, more private interview rooms and a communications system for visitors at the lobby will be installed in the next few weeks, Freeman said. Parks and recreation director Jeff Fortkamp has moved across the hallway on the first floor and the city engineer's office is now on the second floor, he said.
"Right now minor construction needs are being addressed," Freeman said. "The entire department is pretty excited to be coming into this building. What is not to like?"
Hazel said most of the work being completed - moving a few walls, installing secure doors and a window - will cost the city less than $3,000. The purchase price for the communications system is still being investigated, he added.
"Most of the work is being done by us," Hazel said. "We've worked really hard to keep the costs down."
Freeman said in the future the public will be able to access the police department in several ways. Citizens can call 419-586-2345, speak face-to-face with a dispatcher at city hall or use the communication system at the new building.
The type of system to be purchased is still undetermined; it could be a phone system, a video conference system or a buzzer to let the dispatcher know someone is at the new building, he said.
"We don't ever want to lose touch with the public," Freeman said. "Until we get the system in the new building, the public should continue to call the police department or go to the dispatch station at the old building."
City hall will continue to be used for court proceedings, processing prisoners and operating the Breathalyzer tests for those suspected of driving while impaired, Freeman said. Municipal court and the fire department also will remain in city hall.
The new building provides a more secure office for city law director George Moore, officials said. The utility, recreation, auditor and tax offices are on the first floor; community development, safety service, council chambers and mayoral departments are on the second floor.
"There are areas that really don't need to be accessed by the public," Hazel said. "We're looking at making this building as secure as we can, but still being a one-stop shopping for the public. We have a duty to both the public and our employees."
To purchase the building the city borrowed internally from the electric fund, which totaled $8.96 million, and will pay itself back over seven years at a fixed annual rate of 0.21 percent with revenue from the water, wastewater and general fund, according to city officials.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
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