WINDERMERE – Windermere police officers and council members are well aware that the former schoolhouse currently housing the town’s police department is not suitable as a facility for a law-enforcement agency.
But reaching a consensus on how to resolve the situation involving the inadequacy of the police department’s current building is easier said than done, as the issue has been an ongoing challenge spanning several years that all boils down to money.
Despite the lack of significant progress so far, Windermere Police Chief David Ogden holds hope the town will soon manage to come up with an option everyone can agree with and that the town will commit to a plan that can help the small agency reach national accreditation.
“Everything in the building needs to be upgraded,” Ogden said. “It’s a nice, quaint little building, but it’s simply not a police department. Five years ago, I was hired to rebrand, rebuild and re-image the agency, and I was specifically asked to bring in a level of professionalism and seek accreditation measures for the police department … but we simply can’t do that because 90% of accreditation measures is through policy procedure – and we certainly can do that – but a strong 10% is about building security measures that we can’t make there. It’s not a police department. It was never designed to be a police department.”
Although a clear necessity exists for a police department building that’s not from the 1800s, the going has been tough. Recently, council members were presented with a new option: to construct a new, modern building for the department at the northern end of town on Maguire Road. The property, which would be leased to the town by Jain Family Holdings, is located adjacent to the Estancia development.
"It truly doesn't matter to me where a new facility would be located or what it looks like ... I care about the security of our structure, the safety of our personnel and residents who visit, fulfilling my commitment to acquiring accreditation measures, and having a professional environment our town could be proud of. " – Windermere Police Chief David Ogden
However, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn said no final decision has been made yet, and the new proposed location on the northern end of town will simply be added to the list of the three primary options scheduled to be presented to Windermere residents in a series of workshops.
The three options include relocating the department on the northern outskirts of the town on Maguire Road, relocating it by the community center – which would require the relocation of the basketball courts – or demolishing and rebuilding the agency at its current site. The town has contracted a private, independent company to conduct the charettes that begin in July.
“There are so many different options available right now because we can either relocate the police department or rebuild the police department but we want to do is put these charettes together and gather input from the residents and see what they prefer and what are some of the options that they like,” Bruhn said. “I’m not advocating for a specific (option) right now, quite frankly. There are so many different options available, and I’d first like to hear about some of the pros and cons from the people.”
Whatever happens, Ogden hopes the priority is to ensure the new building satisfies standards needed for accreditation and a typical police agency.
Included in Ogden’s wish list for the new building are concrete walls, bulletproof windows, enough room to properly separate their computer servers, surveillance, equipment and electronics with our gun lockers and equipment room, enhanced security entry points, automatic generator supply, a proper area for interviews with suspects and/or victims, adequate room for training and staff meetings and community meetings, and proper ventilation so the staff does not need “ to endure the stench of seized drugs and other items.”
But Ogden knows he and his staff have a long wait ahead of them to acquire such things because even if all goes well and everything is approved, – including the charter amendment next year – the department is still looking at another two to three years before any construction would begin.
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]