Blaine police and public works leadership will move into city hall in July, which for now has ended several years of city council conversation on expanding or moving the police station.
Blaine City Council unanimously approved the city spending $44,000 to modify city hall’s second floor during its May 22 meeting. Improvements include creating a hallway to connect the offices and ensuring the space meets required regulations for an evidence room, which will also be moved to the second floor.
The Blaine police chief, lieutenant and clerk and the public works director, project manager, two engineers and two technicians will be moved into city hall. City manager Michael Harmon said after the meeting that moving all city employees who directly interact with the public into one location will improve customer service.
“Now our customers will only have one facility to go to when they have either public works questions or planning and zoning questions or building permit questions,” Harmon said. “City hall will be the primary location also for concealed weapon permits and things related to the police department.”
The city is currently leasing the second floor to a few private businesses, Harmon said. The second floor modifications, with which public works staff will help, should be done by the end of June and the city staff will move in early July.
Harmon said this move will be permanent for police and public works staff. He added the city may look at remodeling the police station but is not looking to expand or move officers and sergeants into a new facility.
City council has been discussing for several years whether to expand or build a new Blaine Police Department station, currently located in the old post office that was built in the ’60s. Plans to demolish the old city hall sparked conversations on the future of the police station and evidence room.
In February 2020, city council authorized city staff to pursue $2.5 million for a police station expansion but reversed its decision to pursue the funding that summer because of Covid-19’s financial impact on the city. City council then discussed several options for the future of the police station in 2022 that included finding a new location in east Blaine.
In January, city council considered purchasing the vacant UPS building on Peace Portal Drive for a justice center to house the police department, municipal court and other city offices. Harmon said the city made an offer on the UPS building this spring but the owners weren’t interested.
“It’s a very smart financial choice for the city that will lead to better customer service in the short run and the long run,” Harmon said of the city hall decision.
Blaine police lieutenant Michael Munden said the change will allow the department to improve its space for a training room and interview room. Currently, it’s difficult for the department to train at the station because the only open room is used by officers on shift. The room used for interviewing crime victims has no insulation, meaning victims need to be quieted if someone walks into the lobby while they are giving their statement.
Munden said moving part of the department into city hall and potential modifications, such as soundproofing the interview room, would be a good temporary measure, but added that the building won’t work as the city and police department grow.
“This is going to be a pressure valve being released for us,” Munden said. “We are at the max of what we can do right now.”
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