Percy McIver has not been Garner’s police chief since 1989 and does not live in Garner, but at Thursday’s groundbreaking for the new police station, he may have felt as proud as anyone.
“I had a chill run through me when they picked up the shovels and threw the dirt,” McIver said afterward.
A dozen town leaders, police officials and political guests donned hard hats and tossed the symbolic dirt in a field near the new station at 912 Seventh Ave. as a few dozen watched. While the soil the chosen 12 stuck golden shovels into was just a dirt pile placed in some grass, in the background more substantial ground shifted as back-hoes dug holes in the back of the parking lot of the adjoining Southeast Regional Library.
The station, part of a $12 million public facilities bond, will cost in the neighborhood of $4.5 million. The rest of that bond, approved by 74 percent of voters in a 2013 referendum, will fund a new town hall facility. The town expects the police station to open in August, 2015; work on town hall will follow police moving into their new digs.
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Current police chief Brandon Zuidema was happy to see tangible work being done on a project that’s been en route for over a year since the March 2013 vote.
“It’s exciting, because you can put your hands on it,” Zuidema said, adding of opening a police station, “You’re lucky to do this once in your career.”
Zuidema said a lot of work remains, and pressure remains despite the beginning of construction: “You don’t want to mess it up” he said noting the continued efforts to finalize the details of the facility. He said the fact that it’s a renovation project makes the construction schedule less susceptible to weather, but more so to surprises as workers gut the building. None have been found so far, he said.
After the ceremony, McIver chatted with Zuidema, and in the process marveled with him at the support of the community allowing such a facility to be built.
“The percentage of people, 75 percent, is unheard of. People in Garner have always loved us (Garner police),” McIver said, just before cracking: “Sometimes I wonder why.”
Zuidema also stressed the importance of the support from the town. The department currently has personnel spread between three different locations, and Zuidema said that while the department makes due, consolidation and moving into a modernized facility will have numerous benefits.
“There’s a lot of places that use little small fixes to stretch out resources. But this is a much better solution,” Zuidema said.
McIver, who said he was born in the woods in Chatham County and moved around the area when he was young, became police chief of Garner in 1970. He was the police chief when the current police headquarters, a part of town hall, was built and dedicated in 1975. After the ceremony he said he was grateful for an invite to the event. (Former chief Tom Moss, who served between McIver and Zuidema, was also invited but could not attend.)
“I love Garner, North Carolina. It’s been very good to me,” the 74-year-old McIver said.