Monday, December 9th, 2019

City Police Department showcases new station

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019

Submitted by the City of Huntington

The Huntington Police Department settled into the northeast corner of the City Building in 1904, more than a century ago. They’ve managed to make it work even as needs changed and the department grew from seven officers in 1914 to thirty-five today, taking over a disjointed series of tiny rooms in the City Building and spilling across the street into a former utility headquarters.

After 20-plus years of trying to figure out how to squeeze the officers and their equipment into the available space, city leaders have decided it’s time for a new building. The 17,000-square-foot, two-story building will be constructed in the north end of the city parking lot on Cherry Street, nestling into the corner of the L-shaped Huntington City-Township Public Library building.

Its estimated $4.8 million cost will be paid for with about $2.2 million the city has on hand and a bond issue that will be repaid over the next 20 years with income from the existing Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) designated for public safety needs. Construction will begin in March or April of this year and be complete in about 12 months.

“The new building, Huntington Police Chief Chad Hacker says, “Will give the department space to conduct and record interviews, hold training sessions, talk privately with people going through difficult times, store equipment and evidence.” “The lack of ventilation in the current storage areas sometimes leaves the offices smelling ‘like raw marijuana,’” he said.

“It was drugs in particular fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be deadly on contact, that was the tipping point in the decision that something had to be done,” Hacker says.

“What really set it off, a year and a half or two years ago was we had to put in a testing station to field test drugs,” Hacker said.

Hacker continued, “Testing requires the presence of two officers so that if one accidentally comes into contact with the fentanyl, the second can administer Narcan to reverse the drug’s effects. The only place to put the testing station was in the middle of everything else, a solution that also has the potential to expose other officers and the public to the highly potent drug.”

With the realization that the department had simply run out of room, Hacker and other city leaders started looking for a solution.

“There’s some space still available on the south side of the City Building that previously served as a fire station, but moving the police department there wouldn’t give it any more room or create a cohesive office, and adding on to the back of the City Building didn’t make sense,” Hacker said.

He stated that the former Marsh building at S. Jefferson Street and Etna Avenue is owned by a private company and until recently, was still being leased by Marsh. The owners want to lease, not sell, that building and it would require the expenditure of “millions of dollars in remodeling costs,” at nearly 45,000 square feet, it’s too big for the department’s needs. The former Kmart building on the north side of Huntington is also privately owned and separated from the main part of the city by a four-lane highway.

“We want to be centrally located, we get 23,000 to 24,000 calls for service a year,” Hacker explained.

The Former First National Bank/Huntington County Annex building in downtown Huntington is vacant and owned by the city, but Hacker says its physical structure makes it impractical. It’s actually five separate buildings wrapped in one facade, with floor levels that don’t match up and holes cut in walls to create doorways, and sits on top of Flint Creek. The north end of the Cherry Street parking lot won out as the best location. The land is already owned by the city and it is centrally located. There’s also room to expand if that becomes necessary.

The new building will have, among other features, two car bays, several interview rooms, a training room, records office, work space for officers, properly-ventilated evidence storage, drug testing area, space for detectives, a conference room, administrative offices and “lots of storage” – a feature Hacker especially welcomes. “Right now we just shove it wherever we can,” he says.

It will also have a private room off the lobby where visitors, who are upset or angry, can talk to an officer without everyone else in the lobby overhearing. “Sometimes people coming to the station aren’t having good days,” said Hacker.

Shown in the photo is the architect’s rendition of what the new police station will look like.