Police headquarters project a go; Ground broken at building’s site
Holding golden shovels, Police Chief Rob Petrovich, Mayor Eric Feichthaler and other project officials broke ground Wednesday at the site of the new Cape Coral police headquarters near the intersection of Nicholas Parkway and Cultural Park Boulevard.
The $21.6 million, three-story building is scheduled to be completed by June 2009 by the city-contracted Balfour Beatty Construction and Architects Design Group.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Petrovich.
He credited former police chiefs Dan Alexander, who was chief from 2002 to 2004, and Arnold Gibbs, who was chief for seven years prior, with starting the process of a new public safety building nearly eight years ago.
“They started this charge,” Petrovich said. “It was needed then, and it’s definitely needed now.”
Gibbs and Alexander attended the groundbreaking to see their efforts come to fruition.
Alexander, who is now police chief of the Boca Raton Police Department, agreed the project was a long time coming.
“We recognized there were space needs issues and the condition of the building,” Alexander said. “We started moving in earnest in 2005 to 2006. It’s been a long and involved process. It’s good to see the city make a commitment during times of fiscal stress. I’m proud of them.”
The city-approved project comes after a bumpy road for public safety. In 2007, voters rejected a referendum to provide bonds for a $110 million building for police, fire and emergency operations. The new, less expensive building will serve only as a police headquarters.
City council later rejected a proposal from a citizens committee to purchase the Mid Cape Corporate Center from McGarvey Development to refurbish as a police headquarters.
The current public safety building is in the old city hall building and it has suffered problems with mold, deterioration, limited space and an inability to withstand hurricane winds.
“Now the police department has a place it can operate before, during and after a storm,” said Cape Coral Fire Chief Bill Van Helden. “Just like us, the police department has to be able to operate 24/7. I’m thrilled for them.”
Van Helden said the fire department plans to expand its headquarters using all-hazard dollars rather than public funding, and is currently in the process of setting a budget for the project.
“We’ve already built a number of new fire stations in Cape Coral,” he said, referring to the stations’ ability to withstand hurricane winds. “(The new police headquarters) was a priority.”
Members of city council and other officials also attended the groundbreaking Wednesday.
“It’s not always about how hard it is to get there, it’s that you get there,” said City Manager Terry Stewart. “Our council has always found a way to move forward and to get things done.”
“I’m so thrilled to be here … that I could not sleep last night,” said Councilmember Dolores Bertolini. “You know how I feel about police and fire. I’ve been a strong supporter for 30 years.”
Bertolini credited former Mayor Arnold Kempe with the formation of a centralized area for city government buildings in the Cape.
“He’s one of the visionaries,” she said.
“It was through the vote of the people that (the building) had to be scaled down,” said Feichthaler.
“I consider Chief Petrovich a close friend and a leader of the law enforcement community,” said Councilmember Tim Day. “He really truly has been a driving force in this.”
“This really isn’t for the police department, this is for the citizens,” said Elmer Tabor, chairman of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee. “This is what we deserve in public safety, and this is what we expect in public safety.”
Balfour Beatty CEO Ray Southern and other construction officials participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It is on a tight schedule,” said Southern of the building project. “They’ve already started digging. We look forward to completing this project … in June.”
Balfour Beatty has worked on several major local projects including the city hall in 2000, Red Sox stadium, the downtown Fort Myers courthouse and various road projects.