Sandy Springs Police Chief Kenneth DeSimone looks forward to the day when local residents can easily find the city’s public safety building when the Police Department and Municipal Court relocate 620 Morgan Falls Road.
Now they are located in the back of a business complex at 7840 Roswell Road that DeSimone said not a day goes by that someone in the parking lot has to ask how to get to court or where they go to file an incident report.
The current headquarters has many woes, the chief says, and a new facility will help with recruiting and retaining officers in a challenging time.
“And if you’re a 22- [or] 23-year-old young man or young woman straight out of college, straight out of the military or in your first big job, you want to go somewhere that’s nice,” DeSimone said.
The city closed on the new site, a former office building, in a $10.9 million purchase for the new public safety building, officials announced on Oct. 6.
City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said the city is in the process of developing a timeline on the new location. The next step is its design and a request for proposals will be issued to secure those services.
The four-story, 109,000-square-foot building off Morgan Falls Road dates to 1990. It sits on a 12.3-acre property with parking for more than 750 vehicles. The building’s most recent tenant was WorldPay. The city purchased the property from the TPA Group.
The city has paid $757,174 annually for three buildings in the Morgan Falls Office Park for its police department and court.
The buildings are not secure for citizens, officers or court staff, he said. The police headquarters lacks public bathrooms.
“Our lobby is so small that it’s basically standing room only a lot of times. Now, since the pandemic, you can only get one person in a lobby at a time,” he said.
Sensitive items and property evidence are stored in a room that has a shared wall with other, non-government business. When renovations are completed at the new headquarters, he expects to have a completely secure property room.
The current buildings have no secure way to bring prisoners into the courtroom and lack a secure way to hold them while waiting for court to start.
“They’re just basically handcuffed and sat in plastic chairs until their time to see the judge comes up,” DeSimone said.
Renovations to the property bought for approximately $11 million will include secure entries.
The current headquarters also lacks a generator, so if power goes out a department that operates 24/7 is hamstrung. Formerly owned by a financial technology company called Worldpay, the building has a substantial generator on the property that was needed to assure credit card transactions could be processed. He hopes they can make use of it to assure operations such as the 911 center.
“Actually, this past Saturday night, one of our buildings flooded where we are now because the rain was so heavy,” DeSimone said.
The city operates now with a single courtroom. A long trial backs up routine speeding tickets, misdemeanor larceny and shoplifting cases.
“If you have a long trial that lasts a day, maybe two days then all those other cases get backed up because there’s no other venue,” he said.
He hopes to have at least two courtrooms in the new building so they can have multiple trials going on at the same time without a single case log jamming the whole system.
The police department needs locker rooms for its officers. In more than 30 years in law enforcement, DeSimone said, this is the first police department he has seen that didn’t have a locker room. If an officer is working on the banks of the Chattahoochee River and gets covered with vegetation and gets wet, they can’t shower and have no place to store a new uniform.
The new building will have plenty of parking for the public and space for secure parking areas for police vehicles and those seized as evidence.
The new headquarters will enable a fire station to be constructed on the property. Having a dedicated parking lot will give the police department a place to set up a cone course to train citizen volunteers instead of going to a school parking lot. The property provides plenty of space for K-9 training also.
DeSimone said the city pays about $57,000 monthly for rent on six different facilities in two different counties. They include three buildings in the office park, a gym on Hammond Drive and an indoor training facility in Doraville.
“And that’s not including our outdoor range,” he said. The department constantly visits sheriff’s offices in the north metro area for outdoor shooting.
“That’s a lot of hours spent outside the city for training and increases gas costs and wear and tear on cars. If we could consolidate it in one area, I think there will be a big savings,” he said.
The new public safety building will have a gym area that’s not just a weight room. Floors and walls will be padded for use in training for defensive tactics.