09/15/2007

Cramped quarter: Study finds Idaho Falls police need a new home

By Nick Draper
The Idaho Falls Post Register

IDAHO FALLS  A February bond vote is planned to pay for a new facility, estimated at $9.8 million, and a location will be chosen in a few months.

The roof leaks, conditions are cramped and crime victims lack privacy.

Those are only a few examples of the shortfalls of the Law Enforcement Building, headquarters for the Idaho Falls Police Department, as outlined in a recent study.

The study, put together by a local architecture firm for almost $10,000, concluded that the police force needs a building almost twice the size of the LEB to fit its needs and should construct a facility that will comfortably house the IFPD in 2040.

A building that fits both criteria will be 53,000 square feet or so and cost about $9.8 million.

Here are some of the report's findings:

The crime lab's size is grossly inadequate. It was an old storage room and doesn't have enough counter space, biohazard control and evidence locker space, and has insufficient ventilation.

The shift commander's office is too small. The office was meant to house two people but accommodates seven.

The patrol room has six stations where officers fill out their daily reports. That should be increased to 10 stations. Witnesses and victims occasionally have to give statements in this area, where privacy is nonexistent.

The evidence room is significantly undersized. Firearms, ammunition and drugs aren't separated from other evidence, there's no place to store blood evidence items and there is no room to properly receive, prepare and record evidence.

The department's exercise room is extremely crowded and should be at least two times larger.

The report was conducted in preparation for a February election in which the Idaho Falls City Council and IFPD will ask voters to pass a bond to pay for a new station. A location hasn't been selected, but that should change in a few months.

"We would like to have as much information as possible before we go to a bond election," said Sgt. Steve Hunt, who's heading the project for the department.

Starting in mid-October, Idaho Falls residents will be able to tour the LEB.

"I hope we can get people to do that," City Council President Ida Hardcastle said, adding the council will start campaigning hard for a new building in January.

Even with the tours and the planned campaigning, she's still not sure taxpayers will vote yes in February.

"I'm very apprehensive about that," Hardcastle said. "We've got a lot of work to do between now and then."

Copyright 2007 Idaho Falls Post Register

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