By John Baden
Record Herald Writer
Courtesy of the Weekly Record Herald: Printed 4.22.12
A narrow, isolated hallway stands at the back of a beige-colored building that is filled with government offices. Behind the building are four garages for multiple fire trucks and two garages that can hold up to four four-door vehicles.
This is the West Milton Municipal Building, and it has been the headquarters for the city’s police department since 1976. The building had previously been a Ford car dealership since its construction in 1946. With a limited amount of space and a need to be seen by the public, the police department has begun looking into drafting a proposal request for a new or renovated facility.
Matt D. Kline, the Municipal Manager, is the one moving this early-stage project forward and said that it will take him at least a month to get a rough draft of this request together. There is no set date for when construction will begin.
Once the request is drafted, Kline will look into hiring a designer and contractor and figure out the projected cost, search for grants and loan programs and find out if the plan is affordable.
“We can’t assume we can’t afford it,” Kline said. “Because of the conditions, in my opinion, we can’t afford not to look into it.”
Garry L. Kimpel, who has been the city’s police chief for four years, said that the lack of visibility for his department in the community by being in the back of the government building has become a concern to him.
“I think it’s important that visitors and citizens know where the police department is at and that it’s easily accessible,” Kimpel said.
Besides making the police department easy to get to, Kimpel said that that visibility, created by an updated facility, would also help prevent more temporary crime in the area.
Another area of concern is functionality and space. With the space they have, different jobs inside the department have the daily possibility of colliding with other responsibilities.
Fingerprinting is done in the garage. Breathalyzer tests are done in the main room where officers type up reports, talk to victims and witnesses, and process suspects. A locker room also runs off of this room.
Police also have to sometimes take witnesses and suspects outside their hall to a conference room more toward the middle of the municipal building in order to talk without distractions.
And with other visitors coming in with complaints and other issues, the traffic at the police department can make for a crowded area.
“It’s almost impossible to conduct business,” Kimpel said. “It’s not a good situation for professional policing.”
For Kimpel and Kline, a professional police building should consist of three different spaces for dealing with the general public, taking care of day-to-day business and handling prisoners.
“We could better serve the citizens of West Milton if we had a facility that was more functional and had a little more space to separate the functions,” Kimpel said.
There is also a safety concern when dealing with prisoners. With objects laying out in the offices and work areas at the police department, the opportunity could arise for a suspect or convict to grab an object and use it as a weapon.
Regardless of the end result, the police department is seeking a way that will work for both them and the people of West Milton.
“Obviously, we want to do what’s most effective at the lowest cost for the citizens because it’s their money we’re spending,” Kimpel said.
Because of his “one stop shop” philosophy, Kline would like to keep the police department in the same area the government offices and fire station are in if possible, so that the municipal building stays “customer-oriented.”
“I think that’s the way we should be,” Kline said. “I like to have all things government local to our customers, which are our citizens.”
Anyone interested in touring the West Milton Police Department should contact Matt Kline or Garry Kimpel at 698-1500.