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A proper station for a growing department

NLPD facility to begin construction this fall
A concept illustration of the new station for the North Liberty Police Department. To be constructed at the corner of North Main Street and West Cherry Street, across from the fire station, the $5 million facility will be the first phase of a new administrative campus for the City of North Liberty. Construction of the police station is expected to begin this fall, with anticipated completion in fall 2019. (illustration provided by the City of North Liberty)

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty Police Department (NLPD) is finally getting a proper facility to meet its growing needs.
During an Aug. 28 meeting, the North Liberty City Council unanimously approved plans, specifications and estimated cost for the Police Department Building Project. Construction is estimated at $5 million with the use of a general obligation (GO) municipal bond, making it by far the largest project of the FY19 budget.
The new building will be constructed at the northeast corner of North Main Street and West Cherry Street, across from the fire station, and aims to provide officers a more fully-functioning facility. The Police Facility Design Group out of Kansas City, Mo., was chosen last year to design the new station, the result of which will be a single-story structure of approximately 16,000 square feet.
“It’s basically all of our needs that we need not only today, but for the next 10 to 20 years for our police department,” NLPD Chief Diane Venenga explained.
The current station, a brick mid-century building located at 5 E. Cherry St., has a storied history serving as a farmhouse, doctor’s office and city hall. The NLPD has operated out of the 2,600 square feet of space, which was always intended as a temporary home for the department, since 2010. Prior to this, the much smaller police force shared space with the North Liberty Fire Department next door, while city hall occupied the current police station. Having officially formed in 1999, next year will mark the NLPD’s 20th anniversary as the department hopes to move into its first proper station.
Venenga said the new workspace will accommodate growth in the department, such as the enlisting of a second investigator and a juvenile investigator. While the NLPD currently staffs 23 sworn officers, she hopes to accommodate up to 40 in the new facility. The larger plot of land should also give Falco, the department’s new K-9, enough outdoor space to stretch his legs.
In contrast to the limited public parking available along Cherry Street, 20 public parking spots will be provided along Main Street, with covered squad car parking to the rear of the station.
The building interior will certainly be a far cry from the cramped confines of the Cherry Street station.
“What we’re really focusing on is the flow, and so when the public comes in, we really want an easy access that they can come in to file reports, meet with officers and pickup records, and then also the flow for when the officers come into the backside, how easy it is to get briefing information, go to the locker room, get whatever that they need to do to make sure that they can go out and do their job,” the chief said.
While lieutenants, sergeants and an investigator currently share small offices and two sterile interview rooms, the new building will provide individual office space, four interview rooms and a cyber crime room. The department also currently lacks a dedicated group space, with officers typically spilling out into the hallway during shift briefing when officers come on or off duty. For meetings or training, they usually go to the recreation center, fire station or parks department. A multi-purpose/training space, the largest room in the facility, with remedy this, as well as a squad conference room.
Insufficient storage of evidence has hampered the department for a number of years, with items stored in the small, water-prone basement and many others in the same room as the ventilation system. The new Main Street facility will provide evidence drop-off and copious evidence storage for firearms, drugs, forensics and processing.
“Just having a secure place for firearms and drugs, evidence, all of that, proper ventilation out– those are things that we’re really looking forward to that’s not going to impede the rest of the working environment for the department,” Venenga noted.
The current station also contains no jail cells, leaving officers to keep detainees in the back of patrol cars before sending them to the Johnson County jail. A prisoner processing area with two cells will offer a secure space to hold detainees for a few hours before they’re transported to Johnson County.
What will become of the current police station following the transition is uncertain; however, Venegna noted the fire department has expressed interested in repurposing it.
Sure to be a milestone for the City of North Liberty, the new NLPD station will be but the first phase of a new administrative campus for city. Positioned diagonally to the northeast will be Phase 2, a new home for City Hall. The two-story building will also see the parking lot of Reds Alehouse reconstructed and expanded to the northwest, and a second parking lot established to the southeast of City Hall. The $5.5 million project is projected for the FY23 budget.
Bids for construction of the new police station will be taken on Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. at City Hall, with plans for the project to be available for review in a completed form after Sept. 4. The city hopes to have the facility operational by September 2019.

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