BECKLEY, W.Va. — The long-awaited opening of the City of Beckley’s new police department headquarters was celebrated Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the state-of-the art facility adjacent to the city’s Intermodal Gateway.
Members of the Beckley Common Council and area law enforcement agencies, along with a crowd of several hundred citizens, attended the event at the downtown site. Beckley Police Chief Lonnie Christian said the 18 months of construction, which was hampered significantly by unfavorable weather during the past two winters, was worth the wait.
“There’s so many different things that this building gives us,” he said, noting the substantial increase in available space the new building provides. “One of the biggest things is the classrooms. We didn’t have a space that was large enough to house most of our shifts, much less a community meeting or department meeting. So, we can host a large number of classes. We plan to bring trainings to Beckley for other law enforcement agencies. We want to become a training hub, to bring people into the uptown area, and help it grow and thrive.”
The building, which was designed over a two-year period, consists of 24,000 square feet, compared to 14,000 square feet of usable space in the former police headquarters on Prince Street, inside a building that was constructed in the 1920’s and later was converted into a police headquarters.
Christian said the process of moving evidence out of the old building will be a major undertaking, requiring adherence to specific department protocols, under the supervision of an evidence custodian.
“We anticipate it’ll take about six to eight months to move all the evidence. Moving evidence is a very tedious process. There’s a lot of logging and things that you have to do,” said Christian.
Beyond weather-related delays, there were additional factors that impacted the finalization of the project, according to architect Daniel Garvin, whose firm, the Thrasher Group, first began work on the building in March 2017. Garvin said creating a structure for a law enforcement agency necessarily requires a contractor to be certain there will be no need for retroactive construction work.
“Given that it’s a police station, it’s more difficult to have the contractor come in after the police department’s move-in, because there’s a lot of sensitive material here. So, if there was an issue, they wouldn’t be able to to just come in and have the space to work on,” said Garvin.
Among the attendees at Monday’s ceremony was Beckley Mayor Robert Rappold, who said he is especially pleased the department now has a more suitable facility for conducting it’s annual citizen’s police academy program.
“I attended the academy about three years ago and — let’s face it — the old police department was kind of dingy, just not very uplifting,” said Rappold, who said he hoped the new building also would aid the department’s recruiting efforts, as the number of applicants for careers in law enforcement continues to dwindle in many areas of the country, including southern West Virginia.
In contrast to the former police headquarters, the new facility features a secure dolly-port to transport prisoners, a much larger evidence room, and a gymnasium.
Funding for construction of the building was generated by the issuance of lease revenue bonds authorized by the Beckley Building Commission.