Cramped quarters: Cape Girardeau Police Department expansion a necessity

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Walking through the building, one could find fax machines in closets, hundreds of bicycles crammed into the garage, and cramped work spaces around every turn.

This is not some small business lacking the money to meet its growing needs. This is the Cape Girardeau Police Department headquarters, 40 S. Sprigg St.

Built in 1975, the building is in dire need of expansion. In 1980, the department employed 59 people. Now, there are 107 employees, made up of 77 commissioned officers and 30 civilian workers.

While there are tentative plans to expand the Sprigg Street building, any proposed construction would not begin for another 11 or 12 years, by which time the headquarters could be bursting at the seams.

"We definitely need some space. There's no doubt about it," said assistant police chief Randy Roddy.

In 2000, a study was done to determine how and where an addition could be built, Roddy said.

The proposed annex, which would be north of the existing structure, would have two floors and a basement and would nearly double the headquarters' size. The plan has been on the city's capital improvement budget for years now, but no funding has been freed up.

Voters passed a half-cent sales tax in 2004, providing revenue for public safety, with half of that sales tax becoming permanent for operating purposes, such as salaries. The other half of the tax was for capital improvements, such as new equipment and Fire Station No. 3, and will expire in 2014. The estimated $10 million from this tax has already been doled out to various projects.

But the police department expansion was not one of them.

"My hope is the city will seek to renew or extend that quarter-cent sales tax for capital improvements a second 10 years" to fund the annex, Roddy said.

Four homes along Frederick Street east of the headquarters have been bought, and three have been torn down. As space is such an issue, the home that was not torn down is being used for storage, mostly of found bicycles, Roddy said. Two other buildings on the block have yet to purchased.

If all goes as hoped, that space will be turned into the new police parking lot because the current parking lot will be mostly taken up by the new annex.

However, any funding from the quarter-cent capital improvement tax for the annex would be more than a decade away.

"We can't wait 12 years," Roddy said. "We're already cramped and have been for years."

To help ease the expanding department, a temporary building measuring between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet will be placed in a lot east of the headquarters' parking lot, perhaps by year's end, according to Roddy.

When the police department has a new annex, the temporary building can be taken down and resold, allowing the department to recoup some of the construction costs, Roddy said.

335-6611, extension 127

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