By Faye Gaston
The City of Union Springs is exploring the facets of expanding the Union Springs Police Department. The Mayor and Council had consulted with the City Engineer, Tim Simpson of Barrett-Simpson, Inc., to locate an Architect who can develop a plan to either:
1. Renovate the existing building.
2. Construct a new building.
3. Purchase a building and renovate it to meet the Alabama Building Code for Prison Safety.
Simpson said that the present building "needs repair and does not adequately provide for the office spaces and holding cells for prisoners required by law." On November 15, 2021, City Engineer Simpson spoke at the Union Springs City Council meeting.
The Union Springs City Council approved the hiring of an architect to draw up plans for the options. The contract will need to be in writing. The Union Springs City Council will decide after the architect has completed the study. This decision will consider the estimated costs of the options by the architect.
Engineer Simpson said that funds for expanding the police department "Is part of the American Rescue Plan that has provided over $350 billion in emergency funding to local governments."
Union Springs Police Chief Ronnie Felder said that a couple of months ago, Mayor Roderick Clark requested that City Engineer Simpson, Police Chief Felder, and an architect inspect the former Department of Human Resources (DHR) building on Hardaway Street to see if the building is "sound enough" for possible renovation to have the police department moved there.
The building has been empty for about two years. Chief Felder said the 30 parking spaces for vehicles are adequate. The architect's initial estimates were $800,000 to renovate this building and $1.2 million to build a new one.
Chief Felder said the present police department building is too small and the old age of the building is a concern about deterioration. He said the main difficulty with the present building is the lack of adequate space. Space is needed for offices for police supervisors and three shifts of dispatchers.
A "jail" is needed for male and female prisoners instead of the present "holding cells," and the Marshalls Service would need to approve the jail.
He would recommend having a room that would provide double duty as a courtroom (public hearings and court hearings) and where city council meetings would be held.
Engineer Simpson said Chief Felder has explained "all of the many facets of what is needed to bring the facility up to current standards." The requirements would include new office spaces, prison spaces, and the courtroom. Chief Felder said, "Cost is the bottom line" for the option the City Council approves.