GARDNER, Kan. — The Gardner City Council recently approved Treanor as the architect for its new Justice Center, set to start construction in June 2018.
The Justice Center will house the police department and municipal court, something officers and residents said is desperately needed.
Norm Schutte, who graduated the Citizens Police Academy four years ago, said the city is trying to have a more metropolitan feel as it is the fastest growing city in Kansas.
"This building isn't going to help that," said Schutte.
That thought is echoed by Chief of Police Jim Pruetting who said they have one main multipurpose area, which happens to be right next to the offender holding cell.
"It's hard to conduct business here," explained Pruetting.
Pruetting said other quarters are cramped in the 52-year-old building, constructed in 1965 for a telephone company.
"We have six people who share this space with two desks," said Pruetting.
Their shifts overlap and four people are sometimes using the same small office.
Pruetting said there is also mold, asbestos, cracked ceiling tiles, and makeshift wiring so they can connect to databases like NCIC, the National Crime Information Center. That is an important connection as it deals with missing people.
The new facility will be about 33,000 square feet, located at 167th Terrace and Moonlight. It will be on 7.5 acres and gives plenty of space for the department to grow alongside the city's population.
The $13.7 million project is paid through bonds as a return of part of the Johnson County Courthouse tax. That should pay back about $4.5 million over 10 years.
The rest is paid by the reassessment of property tax in Johnson County. In Gardner, the average went up about 11 percent.
In August, voters chose to not have the mill levy returned but instead be reinvested in the new Justice Center.
Council Member Rich Melton is on board with the move. He graduated from the Citizen's Police Academy and did a ride along with officers about four years ago. He did not like the condition of the station.
"I was a little nervous about leaving my family here going, ‘Hey this is the way we are letting these guys operate,'" said Melton.
Schutte also agreed the new center is going to those who are most deserving.
"I think these guys work pretty hard. They really shouldn't have to work in sub-standard conditions like this. They're not even healthy conditions, much less unpleasant," said Schutte.
Officers plan to work out of the current station on Main Street until June 2019 when the Justice Center construction is expected to be done.