Sometimes it just works.
About three months ago, a building was for sale directly across from the tiny, outdated Elma Police Station. Mayor Jim Sorensen quickly started the purchase to serve as a new police station. On Tuesday he signed the papers and the town took over 326 W. Young St.
The current police station is approximately 1,500 square meters. It has a tiny jail cell, two stall-style toilets, and no records or storage rooms – Police Chief Susan Shultz said records are kept in the town hall basement, a room she likened to something you’d see in a horror movie. In the same basement there is a 14×14 foot room for evidence storage.
The new building, most recently FaithLife Church and before that Whiteside Mortuary, is a modern, updated space covering approximately 5,300 square feet.
“We’ve been in a 1,500-square-foot building that was temporarily Tuesday for more than 35 years.
Wednesday attended Sorensen and Shultz The daily world during a tour of the new excavations followed by a visit to today’s station. The two couldn’t be more different.
The Young Street entrance leads into a naturally lit lobby. Shultz’s vision envisages a reception office on the right with a bulletproof glass partition where visitors can be greeted and served. There is a large auditorium a few meters away. Shultz will have her office there, just past the entrance to the building, which will make her more accessible to the public.
The auditorium, as Shultz envisions, will be reduced in size to create a few additional offices, but still accommodate city council meetings, town hall meetings, and similar events. There is a large break room with all equipment.
There will be changing rooms with showers that the current train station does not have. Only recently this proved particularly uncomfortable for an officer who, according to Shultz, had spent part of her shift crawling through crap.
The new building offers plenty of space for files and a secure collection of evidence. There is a cargo bay at the back of the building that officers can drive into in bad weather before unloading equipment, evidence, people in custody, etc. There will also be a prison of its own.
Sorensen said there may be room to move to other city departments, likely one that has not yet been decided. In fact, the police are not packing boxes for the move today. There is some remodeling that needs to be done to suit Shultz’s vision. “It will be a process,” she said.
Half a block away at what is now the train station is the tiny cell where old-school metal rings were drilled to secure those arrested. There is a small bathroom nearby. There are 10 full-time employees in the department, of course not all of them in the building at the same time, but the quarters are still cramped. It was especially difficult when social distancing requirements were in place – Shultz said that until recently, all 1,500 square feet of the building were divided into 6-foot squares with tape on the floor.
Staff meetings were out of the question; the department would have to use the fire station to do this, and if it wasn’t available, they would have to be content with what they could find.
The $ 575,000 cash for the purchase was drawn from the city’s reserves. Sorensen said the city is trying to get a $ 500,000 loan of the purchase to help relieve reserves. As Sorensen said on Wednesday, it’s nice that the city is able to have the reserves for such a purchase – it wasn’t a few years ago.
In the current real estate market, when values are rising and available properties haven’t been in the market for too long, those reserves gave the city the ability to strike quickly to make the purchase – Sorensen said if the city would have had to wait months for the couple can take to get a loan, the opportunity would likely have been lost.
Shultz said she feels very fortunate to work in a community that is so supportive of their emergency services, including passing the police operation tax this week. There were more than 50 comments under the department video showing Sorensen getting the keys to the building, all positive.