Police Chief Jim Biachi has begun showing residents around the future home of the Sandwich Police Department.
The present station at 308 E. College St. has been overcrowded for years and is not suitable for expansion, so a new facility is needed, Bianchi said. So rather than going with the old plan to build a new police station on part of the 28-acre site the city owns on the Sandwich fairgrounds at a cost of $10 million, the city is remodeling an empty, 14,000-square-foot building at 1251 E. Sixth St.
The city bought the building for $480,000, and Bianchi said remodeling the 14,000-square-foot building will cost an estimated $8 million, or $300 a square foot compared with $400 a square foot for a new building on the fairgrounds site.
Bianchi and several of his officers gave tours during an open house Friday, showing the vacant building in its present condition along with an architect’s drawing of what it will look like when work is completed within the next year.
The building was originally the home of Designed Stairs Inc., a manufacturer of staircases. It was built in 2002 and has been vacant since 2009 when the company filed for bankruptcy as a result of the drop in new home construction.
When city officials learned in 2016 that the building was available, they visited it and immediately voted to purchase it.
Although vacant for several years, it had not been allowed to deteriorate, so the only work needed is to remodel it for police use, Bianchi said.
As visitors came through, Bianchi showed them where the telephone, electric and other wiring for the building had been brought into one room by the previous owners. He said the same conduit can be used to install new wiring for the electric, communications and other needs.
“This saves us from the expense and work of having to tear up the floors. And the room is large enough to meet all the department’s needs for years,” he said.
In the event of a power outage, a generator donated to the department by the Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital in Sandwich will be able to provide more than enough power to take care of the entire building, he said.
Bianchi said the plans include three rooms in which law enforcement officials from neighboring counties counties can operate if necessary at some time.
“We can serve any department in the three counties for police, fire, federal agencies and others who may need space for a major crime investigation or other use in these three rooms.
“We do not have space for any of this in the present building,” he said.
Facilities will include male and female cells in a lockup area, lockers for officers, an exercise room, firing range, evidence room and other areas needed by the department.
He said the area for the records is large enough to last for the life of the building. The present room is so small, they have had to destroy some records after receiving permission from the state.
Bianchi could not say when the remodeling will begin, but expects it to last about one year once work starts.