City considers new police facility
Thomasville Police Department has been a Chair City landmark for nearly a century. Built in 1937, the building once served as the hub of Thomasville operations, housing the fire and police departments, City Hall and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Despite all its historical significance, Father Time’s influence at 7 W. Guilford St. has taken its toll, and City Council feels a change in scenery could do a world of good.
During Saturday’s annual retreat, council members started laying the groundwork for a financial plan that could lead to a new police department in the next few years.
“It's a fine historic building, but it's just not adequate,” said Councilman and former police chief Ronald Bratton. “Its been an outdated police building for years. I think it's time. It's something that's long overdue.”
A large amount of debt will come off the city’s books this year when the last principal interest payment is made on Winding Creek Golf Course. City Manager Kelly Craver said that over the next four years, a substantial amount of bond debt also will be retired, providing the city more financial flexibility and borrowing power for any potential construction project.
“We've talked about replacing this building for a few years now,” Craver said. “It's a building that literally housed every city function for decades. It’s a matter of just getting our finances right before we just jump in and build a police department. We're talking about a road map of where we could fund it. We’re getting an update on where we've been and where we're going with that project.”
With any building that old, Craver said it tends to require more and more attention every year. It never was designed to be a police department, lacking showers, adequate bathrooms and sufficient room to store evidence. Talks of moving TPD broke down when the economy fell into recession, but Bratton feels it’s time to bring the discussion back to the forefront.
“I think we patched some of that building my whole career there,” said Bratton. “We looked at doing this some years ago, about the same time [Thomasville Furniture Industries] downsized. We looked at some buildings then. Of course, with the changing of the economy, it sort of got put on the backburner.”
One of the primary questions regarding the police department is whether the city should build a new facility or renovate an existing structure. One possible idea centered around the Thomasville Parks and Recreation Department. Craver said his dream project would be to refurbish and expand the recreational facility at Memorial Park then relocate the Parks and Recreation central office from the corner of East Main Street and Randolph Street to the site.
“Staff is going to suggest that we basically take those funds and create a capital reserve fund for construction,” Craver said. “We did some research about potential locations for the new building over the last few years, and we still want to have it in the downtown area. The city owns both properties but that was just one of the things we talked about.
We’re looking for the best area to get them in a new facility, whether it's new or new to us. We also want to look at any other possibilities of something downtown that may be converted or renovated. ”
Bratton feels building a new police department from the ground up ensures another upgrade won’t be needed down the road.
“I probably prefer that we build one new,” said Bratton. “It's hard renovating something into a police building. I've seen where other cities have tried to use other buildings and usually it ends up where if you're not careful you'll build something that's not big enough and you have the same problem in a few years.”
Bratton thinks the city needs between five and six acres of land for the project. Craver and Bratton agree that keeping TPD in the downtown area is the ideal scenario. By creating a capital reserve fund, Craver said the city could put itself in a situation where it borrows less money for any project.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.