By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – After a decade or so of discussions for a new Tupelo Police Department facility, waiting six more months is doable.
If all goes as planned, City Council members could vote within six months to approve a construction contract for a new facility at Front and Franklin streets.
Before a vote to approve a contractor, council members and Mayor Jason Shelton will have work sessions to get updates on the project and likely will need to formally agree on a budget.
City Council members informally asked Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre and architect William Lewis of JBHM Architects to keep costs to $10 million for the new 37,504-square-foot facility. The facility was first mentioned at a possible cost of $8.8 million but increased when council members recommended creating a police headquarters expected to last a generation or more. With a budget figure in mind, the two men resumed meeting to discuss more specifics.
“We’re going through the programming process to create a detailed program to define all of the departments, all the way from the number of copy rooms to the size of janitor closets,” Lewis said.
Planning to design a police facility to last for at least a quarter century involves details like where the more than 100 police employees will have space to work for years to come. Computer programs allow the police chief and architect to see how they can expect the actual rooms and space to look.
“It’s kind of like having a bunch of building blocks,” Aguirre said. “We’re moving them around to make sure they fit in the spaces.”
The new facility will replace existing police buildings, currently in three separate locations. Most police employees work out of the Front Street building, but two other locations on Court Street have offices, including those for supervisors.
Demolition and removal of the former cigarette warehouse, which is sitting on the future station’s land, has entered final stages.
The city has $5.3 million already for the new police headquarters and likely will finance the rest.
As for opening the new police facility, Tupelo Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis said significant capital building projects take time to plan and build.
“We’re at least 18 months to two years from moving into a new station,” Lewis said.