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July 17, 2013

Turlock Now: New Public Safety Facility has space to spare

New, bigger police department and fire administration headquarters will have a lot of empty space to start. So what should they do with it?

So what is Turlock going to do with all that space in their new Public Safety Facility?

The $30 million bigger, better combined police department and fire administration headquarters at Broadway and Olive will be 30 percent empty when it opens in September.

The extra space will be evident in almost every department — rows and rows of lockers, empty offices, unfurnished work areas. When planning began in 2007, it was based off of projects from a then booming Central Valley economy. But that was before the full brunt and depth of the Great Recession brought the area’s growth to a halt.

The new two-story, 57,000-square-foot building is considerably larger than the 40,000-square-foot Modesto Police Department headquarters, even when factoring in the latter’s continued use of their old 10,500-square-foot building. 

Yet it will house a force that is less than half the size of its larger neighbor to the north. Meanwhile the Turlock Police Department has seen its ranks drop by eight sworn officers since the project began. 

The facility was built with a 30-year plan in mind. But even those in charge of the project wonder aloud whether the building will be filled in that time. When it opens there will be 10 empty offices and 25 vacant workstations. The building will have 128 employees - 124 for police and four for fire. 

For a police force of 73 officers there will be 71 women’s lockers and 145 men’s lockers. The detectives unit could fit 23, though only eight are on staff. Narcotics has room for eight and two will be occupied. Dispatch can fit a dozen and half will be used.

Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson said the expansive new headquarters are a good investment for the city, despite all the unused space initially. The department also hopes to get creative in ways to use their elbow room.

He said they’ve discussed letting other county groups use space in the center, from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to California Highway Patrol and Stanislaus County Probation. There has been no talk yet about whether there would be any fee would be charged to those agencies for its use.

The new bay-windowed training room, which is one of the building’s most prominent features facing Broadway, could also be used for department or city-sponsored events. 

“I want it to be a conduit for connectivity with the community,” Jackson said. “I want it not looked on as just a police and fire building, but a community resource.”

But Jackson said he isn’t interested in renting any of the space out to the public as a profit generator. Security and privacy issues would make such use difficult.

However the police and fire departments end up using the space, one thing is clear. Turlock won’t need a new Public Safety Facility for the next 30 years if not considerably longer.

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