Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley made his first pitch publicly for new police and fire stations in the city to enhance the safety of first responders and the public.Buckley was assisted by former mayor Warner Wiley, police chief Mark Swartz and fire chief Robert Cheshire plus five more first responders who talked about the negatives of the two existing buildings and the positives about replacing the facilities.
They spoke at a town-hall discussion Thursday at the Hornet Park Community Center.Cost estimates, according to Buckley, would be $7 million to $9 million for a new police station and $4 million to $5 million for a new fire station. The police station would be built first, hopefully by late 2020 and a fire station sometime in 2022.
“This our highest priority,” Buckley said. “It all goes back to personal safety and that is the number one priority of this city."
He said part of the former St. Francis Hospital site at Albany Avenue and Sherman Drive could be a site as well as two other sites that were not identified. Built in 1974, the existing police headquarters would remain but have an undisclosed purpose. Used briefly as the mayor’s office, the building behind the main police station would remain. The proposed fire station would replace the existing one at 1202 Albany Ave., built in 1978. The fire station at 330 E. Churchman Ave. would be retained.
“This is an investment about the future of our city,” Buckley stated. “We are running out of space; If we don’t take action, it will jeopardize the protection of Beech Grove.”
In 44 years, the police department has grown from 17 to 25 officers, one to six secretaries, and 500 runs to 21,000 yearly runs.
“We are full,” police chief Swartz said. “We have no room.”
He pointed out that daily roll call is done in a hallway, space to store and retain evidence is beyond its maximum, more space is needed for detectives and officers, space needs to be designated for physical training and more interview space is needed so that suspects are not in proximity to witnesses or crime victims in the building.
Additionally, a new building also would have a community room where detectives and officers could review cases and evidence, adequate room for City Court, proper and separated spaced for male and female officers and an adequate short-term holding area for suspects who have been arrested and are awaiting transport to the Marion County jail.
Swartz also pointed out that outside agencies, including state police and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers use areas in the building to complete paperwork or build cases.Fire chief Cheshire emphasized that the fire station is the 24/7 home of firefighters who are on call to protect the public. He also expressed concern about lack of facilities for cleaning and storing gear and shower facilities to cut down on carcinogens and potential risk of canter to firefighters.
A new building on the same site would increase living and working space for firefighters, eliminate a roof that is settling, provide separate facilities for male and female firefighters and EMTs plus more restrooms, showers and sleeping facilities, more parking, include a specific inside exercise area, and have more gear storage, office space, kitchen and storage areas.
Buckley said methods on funding the new building would be discussed at a future session with the public.The next step is for the city council to provide approval to proceed with plans for a new police station and afterward a new fire department.