Sandy Springs’ current police department and municipal court buildings are outdated, full and in a low-security location, according to a consultant with a public safety headquarters research firm. The city has said building a new headquarters is a long-term priority, but there is currently no location or plan in the works.
Stockton Reeves, executive director of the Center for Public Safety, presented his findings of a study at a Jan. 24 City Council retreat.
“You all did an admirable job of finding space for the officers and the courts and what they had to do for the first few years,” Reeves said at the retreat. “You all are at that point where it’s maximized its capacity and it’s time to address this.”
According to Police Chief Ken DeSimone, the police department currently operates out of seven locations, and six of them are rented.
“I think that we’ve done all that we can with what we’ve got,” Police Chief Ken DeSimone said. “We have pushed it as far out as we can.”
“We wanted to present it because it is something that we made a commitment on three years ago to the police department,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. “This is more to let you know that we are in the process of moving this process forward but there’s still a lot left before we can start answering specific questions.”
CPS is a Florida-based organization dedicated to research, planning and assisting public safety employees in the process of obtaining new or expanded facilities, according to its website.
Creating a new public safety headquarters is in the city’s long-range plan. Currently, the police department headquarters remains at Morgan Falls Office Park at 7840 Roswell Road, renting space in three separate buildings. The municipal court is also renting space in the office park in a separate building that housed City Hall prior to the opening of City Springs in 2018.
The police department also operates out of training facilities they rent in Cherokee, Gwinnett, Paulding and Pickens counties, according to spokesperson Sam Worsham.
Reeves said that one of the main problems with the current headquarters is its location.
“I couldn’t find the dadgum place,” Reeves said. “I drove by the place twice…there’s no real signage and once I got in the office complex, it’s very confusing to find anything.”
Reeves had five areas of critical concern: the public access areas such as the lobby; the lack of a sally port to be able to move suspects safely in and out of the facility; the lack of secure interview and holding spaces; the evidence processing and storage room; a vulnerability to human-caused and natural disasters; and the lack of security.
“I can’t tell you how many times I go somewhere and the mayor or the city manager will say, ‘Well, that can’t happen here,’” Reeves said, referencing the possibility of human-caused and natural disasters.
CPS conducted a space-needs study, determining that the police department and municipal courts will need a total of 158,000 square feet by the year 2040. According to property records, the current facilities are around 79,000 square feet.
“I did this under the assumption that if you all did this in the future, it would be one joint-use facility,” Reeves said.
Reeves suggested the city’s next steps are to conduct a detailed space-needs study that includes master planning and to conduct a cost analysis for building a new headquarters.
City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio asked what the cost would likely be to build that type of facility. Reeves said there is no way to give an estimation until a design is made.
In 2018, the city was considering adding building new “emergency operations” and 911 backup centers at City Springs to the 2019 budget, but the plan has not come to fruition yet.