Thursday was a joyous day for the town of Garner and the police department.
Just 12 hours before they brought in the New Year, Mayor Ronnie Williams was joined by police Chief Brandon Zuidema, town staff and council members, as they cut the ribbon on the town’s long-awaited new police department headquarters.
It had been a long time coming for the town. The department was supposed to open up earlier in the year, but there multiple delays with construction, due to different subcontractors.
“We said we’d get in done in 2015, and we got it done in 2015,” said Town Manager Hardin Watkins, whose last day will be on Jan. 4.
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On Tuesday, the police department staff had moved into its new $4.5 million, 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building, equipped with training rooms, interview rooms, a workout room, locker rooms, an evidence area and plenty of offices.
And on Thursday they had a soft opening.
Smiles were all around from council members, to police officers.
“I’m thrilled,” Zuidema said. “I’m thrilled we have broken in the building. It’s a building that this community and this police department needs and deserves. These men and women go out and do an incredible job every day so we want to give them an appropriate facility.”
Said council member Jackie Johns: “It’s the greatest thing to happen to Garner.”
Johns added that the new building is more visible that it was before, and it’ll help the citizens be able to identify it better.
Johns said when he started on the council more than 30 years ago, he imagined something like the new building, but he wasn’t sure the town could get it done as quick as it did.
The police department had previously been dispersed in the town in three separate buildings – with two on Seventh Avenue and one on Main Street – which were around 9,000 square feet combined. Many detectives were sharing offices.
Now all of the department’s 73-person staff will be housed in the same building and detectives have their own individual offices.
Zuidema said in having the three offices, some staff members rarely crossed paths.
The police department also did not have a training room in its building. If officers wanted to do training they would have to go off-site and find someone to help them host it, Zuidema said.
“The possibilities and the pluses are almost endless,” Zuidema said.
Three words are plastered on the walls in the department’s main room.
They read, “Integrity, Commitment and Professionalism.”
Mayor Ronnie Williams looked proud as he checked out the facility. He tested out some of the weights for reporters in the department’s workout room.
He said the town had not built a new building in more than 20 years. The new police station was part of the 2013 bond voters passed.
“They’ve worked hard to earned it,” Williams said of the police department, “but the people supported the bonds and we owe a debt of gratitude to them. It’s a good day for Garner.”
During his campaign for re-election for mayor in 2015, Williams said one of his goals was to see the ribbon cuttings for the police department, the recreation center and the new town hall.
“And I think I’m going to make it,” he said. “One down.”
The police department will have a public grand opening on Jan. 15 around noon. It will also unveil its improved mural two months after it was tagged with anti-cop graffiti.
Residents in the town and surrounding areas raised about $3,000 to get the mural fixed after the story of its vandalism made some national news.