WHEELING, W.Va. — Following years of planning and wanting, a new headquarters for the Wheeling Police Department is now under construction.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday in Wheeling where Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, Wheeling police officers, Mayor Glenn Elliott, City Council, and City Manager Robert Herron participated at the location of 2115 Chapline Street.
“I wasn’t sure if I would ever see today (Thursday) and I’m ecstatic,” Schwertfeger told MetroNews. “It’s been a day I have been waiting for, for many years and I know the Wheeling Police Department is as well.”
The new police headquarters building is the former Ohio Valley Medical Center Valley Professional Center. The $6.5 million dollar building renovation project is expected to begin next week and last roughly one year, a release said.
The Wheeling Police Department has been at its current location inside the City-County Building in downtown since 1959 and occupies roughly 4,600 square feet. The chief said the current location does not fit the needs of the department.
Schwertfeger said the department tries to be progressive but the current situation makes it difficult. He said during meetings with command staff, they don’t have room for monitors or equipment to show graphs or information to an entire room. He told MetroNews that several years ago when President Donald Trump was in town, the police did not have a place to host the Secret Service.
“We don’t have adequate storage space, our evidence room is woefully small. We don’t have the ability to hold a productive meeting or roll call training,” Schwertfeger said of the current issues.
Schwertfeger told MetroNews that this will improve the functionality and efficiency of the police department.
The new three-story facility will be more than 36,000 square feet with many new and improved amenities, including: office spaces for officers, civilian staff and community outreach programs, an enhanced training rooms, a physical fitness area, a highly secure entrance, a garage sally port for arrests, and a secure area for evidence storage.
Schwertfeger told MetroNews the physical fitness area will be 2,000 square feet and have a fully operational locker room with a space for every officer. Training rooms will include simulation for driving, critical incident and defensive tactics. A new community room will be able to house between 50 and 75 people.
“We’ll have a state-of-the-art evidence room, we’ll have a lab to go along adjacent to that,” Schwertfeger said of the changes. “We’ll have sufficient officer workspace. The officers basically fight over four computer terminals now. We will have one for everyone on duty.”
Elliott said of the work, “For the last several years, city council, in conjunction with city administration, have been seeking space that would allow the police department to relocate out of the current cramped and outdated space in the City-County Building.
“After a public safety levy fell a few votes short of its requisite 60-percent approval in 2018, the city council made the difficult decision to fund this project by implementing a city service fee. This decision was made with the city’s best interests in mind. I look forward to the completion of the building next year.”
The city service fee Elliott was referring to is $2 and was approved by city council in August 2019.
The renovation design was provided by M&G Architects & Engineering of Wheeling. The Waller Corporation of Washington, Pa. is the general contractor for the project. The building is expected to be completed and occupied by early September 2022, the police department stated.