By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
"The Meridian Police Department on Sixth Street is 10-7."
"10-4. The MPD on Sixth Street is out of service."
"The Meridian Police Department on 22nd Avenue South is now 10-8."
"10-4. The MPD on 22nd Avenue South is now in service."
And with that simple radio traffic, the Meridian Law Enforcement Center became operational.
Years of talk and trying to figure out a way to move officers and staff from the dilapidated confines of the old police station on Sixth Street ended Thursday with the ribbon cutting and ceremonial transfer of the key to the new Meridian Police Department building on 22nd Avenue as a large crowd watched city officials and officers with the MPD officially open the doors to the new facility.
The state of the art building will become fully operational Wednesday of next week when the first patrol briefing will be held inside the Patrol Division section. Until then, officers and staff will finish up moving the last essentials vital to the operation of a modern police force.
"We have to load the computers with our hard drives, move in files and other aspects of the department," Acting Chief James Sharpe said amid shaking hands and receiving congratulations on the new facility. "But for the most part we are ready to go and we are ecstatic."
The total project cost, including the acquisition cost of the property by the developer, is approximately $8.7 million.
The net present value of the lease payments is approximately $5.2 million, a savings of $3.5 million, officials at the ribbon cutting said. Some $2.1 million of the city’s Drug Enforcement funds were invested in the project and the building will be turned over to the city at the end of the lease.
“Building a new police station has been a major priority for my administration," Mayor Cheri Barry told the crowd gathered outside the police station. "It has not been easy. We have had to be creative in the financing and committed in purpose. We had to keep moving forward no matter how many obstacles we faced. What you see today is the result of our efforts. We now have the police headquarters that our officers deserve. This building will improve public safety.”
After the ceremony, held outside as it got progressively warmer, the large crowd of attendees moved inside where they enjoyed not only the modern look and feel of a new law enforcement center but air conditioning — something the old station was in short supply.
As they ate cake and sipped soft drinks, the crowd quickly dispersed throughout the 44,000 square foot building. Gladys Davenport was in the jail section of the facility and marveled at the new surroundings the police force would be able to utilize.
"I think this is a fantastic facility for the officers," Davenport said as she viewed the lineup room with its one-way glass. "The old station was deplorable. Our officers certainly deserve this and I think they will be better for it."
Raymond Bradford, a retired U.S. Navy Seabee, liked the layout of the building and said it would provide excellent efficiency for the officers.
"The building is outstanding," Bradford said. "The construction crews and architects did a fabulous job of putting this floor plan together to utilize every available square foot. I'm impressed."
Sharpe said, "We will be a more efficient and effective police force in this new building. We will have law enforcement capabilities that were not available to us in the past. We will be better able to serve the public as police officers."
Sharpe said for many years he has heard the plans, the rumors and the dreams of getting a new police facility. He had resigned himself to a wait and see attitude, dismissing any talk of a new station until he could actually touch it with his own hands.
"Now that I've seen it, I believe it," Sharpe said.