ELOY — The construction of the new Eloy Police Department building might be the one thing that COVID-19 has not slowed down.
Construction began earlier this year and if things continue to go smoothly, Police Chief Chris Vasquez and the rest of his department expect to move into their new home in mid-September.
Anyone who has ever been in the current police building knows it can cause a bit of claustrophobia. Trying to walk through it is like trying to find your way through a maze.
The new building is made up of the old City Hall, City Council chambers and finance department buildings.
“This space right here is about 1,000 square feet bigger than the space they’ve got right now,” Project Manager Regis Reed said. “We left the buildings, but you won’t see anything, other than the brick and the ceiling. You won’t see any of the old building here. We kept the footprint of this building; we kept the ceiling of this building.”
Additionally, the department's old building will be torn down and B Street behind the building will be closed.
“Just the holding facility alone adds almost 1,200 or 1,500 square feet that they don’t have now,” Reed said. “I don’t know how they do it. When you go in there you go, ‘OK. I never want to get arrested; this is crappy.’ This is worse than just going to jail. It’s really bad.”
Some of the key factors include having a separate area to hold detainees instead of having them handcuffed to a chair in the hallway, which sometimes happens in the current office.
“Ideally, if we can, we’ll cite and release everybody out of there, so we don’t have to hold them for long periods of time,” Vasquez said. “If not, we’ll get in there, process them and then get them to Florence as quickly as possible, because we don’t want to keep people over there for any long periods. In case something bad happens, you have court people over there and we don’t want to jeopardize them if someone escapes from there.”
The closing of B Street will allow all department personnel to have secure parking and will also provide a secure port where two vehicles can come in with a person in custody and not worry about them escaping.
“When I first started, a guy escaped from the back, and we ended up catching him in someone’s backyard. We don’t want that to happen,” Vasquez said. “If we get someone for a very serious and violent crime and they escape from us and they get into somebody’s house, we could have a hostage situation.”
During the transition from the department’s current building to the remodeled one, officers will use the two cells at City Court when needed.
The department will also provide a safe place for victims to give statements without being in a small interrogation room.
“It’ll have a couch and some nice comfortable chairs to be a pleasing environment, so when victims come in, we want to make them comfortable so they can kind of relax,” Vasquez said. “They’re already traumatized, so they can tell us what happened in a nice comfortable setting. Basically, we don’t have that right now.”
Other features include a sergeant’s bullpen, evidence room and gymnasium.
Vasquez believes that the department has been in the same building since he was a kid and he would go to the Fire Department next door to see the fire trucks.
“I remember this building when I was a teenager,” he said. “I remember the entrance wasn’t here, it was at the side around the corner, so they’ve done remodeling inside for various reasons. This building has been here since I can remember.”
Construction is scheduled to be fully completed by May 2021.