Little Paige Watson covered her ears, warned about the noise as a Special Weapons and Tactics truck raced in for a staged display with two flash bombs. The 5-year-old enjoying a free lunch outside Turlock’s new Public Safety Facility didn’t know it, but the $30 million building to her back was built for her.
And it was built for 9-year-old Joshua Lira, touring the center while peppering Capt. Jeff Lopes with questions about being a policeman. He’d like to be one someday, he confided, maybe even at the Broadway Avenue station that shares its top story with fire administration.
The 57,000-square-foot building was built looking to the future, officials said during ceremonies kicking off a day of public tours and a safety fair Saturday.
The facility has more than enough room for today’s 124-person police department. It has easy-access power and communication lines, easy to switch as technology changes. And it already has a positive impact on downtown businesses, a hopeful sign for future growth.
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“This block was built with (redevelopment agency) money. It really is the best of what RDA was designed for,” said Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman. “Businesses are coming in. It’s already revitalizing downtown Turlock, and it’s just a beautiful building.”
The building replaces a 20,000-square-foot station built in the 1960s and fire administration offices in two locations. It adds greater safety measures, better evidence control and disaster management capability for the department.
“Most government projects of this magnitude are refurbishments. This is all new, said Police Chief Rob Jackson. Patrol operations and records take up the bottom floor. Administration, investigations and dispatch services are on the second.
The now adjacent fire and police administration share record-keeping and secretarial services and work together on neighborhood services touching both agencies. “You don’t see organizations sharing like that. But it’s ultimately in the public interest,” Lohman said.
Easily spotted by its obelisklike communications tower, the tan-and-cream building sits companionably beside the Carnegie Arts Center on North Broadway Avenue at the west end of downtown.
Energy efficiencies are expected to keep utility bills at roughly what the city paid for the old station, one-third the size, Lopes said. Evidence lockers have a flat surface (no handles) on the front and once full can only be opened from the back, by property techs who catalog and store it.
Records from 2004 onward line up in a bank of slide-out file shelves. “We love it. We don’t have to climb up to what we called the dungeon in the old building,” said records clerk Doris Larkins.
Dispatchers wearing wireless headsets sit in a darkened room watching seven screens each, with sky-view maps, lists of calls, access to databases and other information. “I don’t even have a phone anymore,” said dispatcher Alex Stapler.
Compact holding cells have metal toilets only flushed remotely to keep evidence from disappearing, Lopes said. The area has constant monitoring, a separate air ventilation system in case tear gas should ever be needed and a single-door open protocol.
Ginger Taylor posed for pictures in one cell – her first, “and it should be the last,” said husband Mark Taylor with a laugh. He said he was impressed with the center. “It is wonderful, really well built. I felt it was money well spent,” he said.
Building tech upgrades include key-card access and video monitoring, better backup systems and a generator capable of powering the emergency operations center for a long stint if needed, said information technology employee Daniel Lourenco, touring the site with his family. “There’s just a whole slew of new technology,” he said.
Waiting for a tour to start, Tony Barbagallo said he liked that the facility is shared by agencies. “It was an expensive building. I think it was an investment in our community,” he said. “It says we have a modern police force that’s protecting a community that’s getting bigger.”