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Police department takes shape

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WORKERS: Project Manager Sam Grotrian instructs an intern on the construction site at Cherry Street parking lot where the new Huntington Police Department HQ is being built.
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BIRDS-EYE: A view of the construction progress on the Huntington Police Department station from the third floor of the City Building.
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FRAME: The steel frame of the building is taking shape, and the next step will involve pouring concrete on the second floor while getting skilled-workers in to work on the infrastructure.
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FIELD TESTING STATION:Pictured here is thedrug testing station where lethal doses of drugs such as Fentynol come into dangerous proximity to officers, since the drug can absorb through the skin and possibly become airborn. Police Chief Hacker said it’s the only place the station could fit in the City Building.

by James Ehle - hpnew@h-ponline.com

As the new Huntington Police Department building begins to take shape in the Cherry Street Parking Lot, Police Chief Chad Hacker has been watching its progress from his office in the City Building. 

He said the project is in its third month of the 12-month timeline for completion, and project manager Sam Grotrian said everything is moving according to schedule. A steel skeleton of the future police department stands above the pavement and gravel of the old parking lot.

“It looks kind of slow right now because we can’t have guys working underneath these guys,” said Grotrian. “Once the steel’s up and we get that second floor poured you’ll start seeing a lot more trades coming in, so it will get swamped at that stage.”

Trades like “brickies” and framers are a few of the trades Grotrian listed who will begin work on the project around the first of September.

Hacker said the 17,000 square-foot building is a welcome expansion for the Huntington Police Department, since the officers have resided in the City Building since 1904. The department has grown from seven officers in 1914 to 35 in early 2019. The officers been stationed in the same area of the building, which also contains the mayor’s office, engineering department, clerk treasurer’s office, water billing office and HR department.

Chief Hacker has given a few tours of the City Building so people unfamiliar with the quarters can see the necessity of a larger space.

He said one of the dangers within the building is a field drug testing station that sits amidst a busy room where officers frequently pass through and write reports. Two doses of narcan, a drug used to reverse effects of opioid overdoses, are present in case an officer is exposed to Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, which can prove deadly upon contact.

Hacker says the new building will have a room dedicated to field drug testing with proper ventilation, another room to process evidence and a separate room for officers to write reports. There will also be a room where visitors, victims, and other complainants can talk privately with an officer.

“I think it’s going to help with the morale,” said Hacker in reference to his officers.

He said the public has been supportive of the construction project which is projected to stay within the estimated budget of nearly $4.8-million.

Hacker says the people in charge of the project have been mindful of where taxpayer dollars are being spent.

“We’re getting everything we need,” Hacker said. “We’re not getting a lot of the stuff that is unnecessary. We’re getting everything we need to be a good, effective police department in this era.”

Camera work, alarm systems, card readers on doors, sound-proof duct work, and special ventilation are just some of the unique features the building will include. Grotrian says he’s never seen some of the features in his 34 years of construction experience.

Policing has changed a lot over the years, and the state-of-the-art building will be a huge step forward for the department, Hacker says. 

He believes the new building will also give the department an advantage.

“I think it’s going to help us with recruiting because it’s hard to find police officers,” Hacker said.

“We’re competing with the State Police… Fort Wayne, Indianapolis - we are competing with everyone,” Hacker continued.

A special topping-off ceremony will be held in a few weeks where a steel beam, which will be signed by officers, city council, mayor, board of works, clerk treasurer, and others involved in the process, will be dedicated. The beam will be on display for all who enter the new police headquarters to see.

Grotrian said he doesn’t foresee any hiccups for the project in the future and that his team is working to get ahead of schedule. The project is currently on track for completion in May or June of 2020.