By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Eric Moore is genuinely pleased with the progress being made on the Meridian Law Enforcement Center currently under construction at the old Cowboy Maloney location on 22nd Avenue. He has also been somewhat amused at the number of people who have wondered if something was being done at all.
"I've had a number of people ask me if we were doing anything, but what you couldn't see from the outside only meant we were inside doing a great deal of work," Moore, the project manager for Heritage Building Corporation, said. "Just because you didn't see anything happening from the street doesn't mean we weren't working on the inside."
Besides, it takes a long time to erect and build the walls, rooms, install the electrical systems and much more on a floor plan that covers more than 44,000 square feet.
"It is huge in here and the personnel who will be moving from the old station on Sixth Street will be in heaven here," Moore said as he walked the hallways pointing out significant areas of interest. "The personnel have already been down here to see the facility for themselves and they are extremely anxious to get into the building."
For this lease-purchase project the city will pay rent over a period of 20 years for a minimum of $8.2 million, including $2.1 million the city will pay up front from funds derived from police department seized property. The annual rent will be $305,000, allowing for possible increases based on the consumer price index every five years.
Parts of the financing for this lease-purchase project are bonds that are passing through the Urban Renewal Authority, according to Mayor Cheri Barry's office. By using a lease-purchase agreement for the project, the bonding capacity for the City of Meridian is not affected, Barry said in a statement.
Barry recently released a report from Bill Crawford, chairman of the Meridian Urban Renewal Authority, that outlined many of the major financial aspects of the project, which made this new addition to the City of Meridian possible. Among those facts were that Citizens National Bank will contribute $1,240,200 to the project in return for state tax credits. The City of Meridian will inject $2,100,000 million from the previously mentioned drug seizure funds.
The Urban Renewal Authority will issue $2,355,000 in bonds for the project in addition to issuing another $2,100,000 in short-term bonds for the project. Out of these funds, the Urban Renewal Authority will make “leverage loans” to the “investment fund” controlled by U.S. Bank. Leverage loan A will be for $2,355,000. Leverage loan B will be for $3,334,950, both interest only for 7 years.
"In today's economic climate, it took some creative financing and outside-the-box thinking to get the project to work," said Barry.
A tour of the inside of the building reveals the massive space that will be utilized. From the municipal court room to the storage areas, square footage is being used in a thoughtful manner.
"There is more than enough room for storage and for personnel here," said Tim Miller, the chief administrative officer for the City of Meridian. "We have included areas we haven't had before and improved on those we have had in the past."
The center of the facility is set aside for a huge security storage area where evidence of all kinds will be kept. Moore pointed out the security doors and the concrete ceiling and walls will make this area a bunker in the heart of the facility.
"I would assume if a tornado or some other severe event were to occur this would be the place to go," Moore said. "I know I'd feel safe in here."
Long hallways have room after room where personnel from the shift sergeants to detectives to the administrative staff will have ample elbow room in which to do their jobs. An exercise room and a SWAT room where even the weapons used by the specialized unit used during emergencies ensures that everyone and everything has its proper place.
Just as it is in the Sixth Street building for everyone, the detectives of the MPD's Criminal Investigation Division are looking forward to the move "South" as they like to say.
"We will have offices for everyone without having to share," said Capt. Dean Harper, the commander of the department's CID. "Space will not be an issue and we will have the room for both the juvenile and adult detectives. It will be an awesome facility."
Capt. Wade Johnson commands the Patrol Division for the MPD and he said the fact they will be cool in the summer and have heat in the winter is going to be a big plus, not to mention the other amenities.
"If you consider where we have been to where we will be going it is a huge difference," said Johnson after spending some time inside the facility to get measurements for furniture. "We will have room to better do our jobs and the morale of the officers is already improving. To have a good place to work means a great deal."
In the rear of the building will be the loading and unloading port for suspects and prisoners. It is conveniently located close to the booking / processing area and the jail cells. Off to the side of this area are rooms where the questioning of suspects can be held complete with the two way mirrors for monitoring.
Tim Allred, of Allred Investments Property Management who owns Heritage Building Corporation, said once the project is completed, citizens of Meridian and the police officers and civilian staff who work within the department will have a facility they can all be proud.
"In the building they are in now the heating and cooling doesn't work very well so I think that alone will be a big improvement for them once they move into here," Allred said recently. "Once they get settled in the new building I think they will be pleased."
"We have a great team working hard to finish the building for a spring opening," Barry said. "I can't wait to walk into the police station and see our officers working in an environment befitting the service they give the citizens of Meridian."