Elko getting new police HQs

After decades conducting police business out of a building constructed as a church 65 years ago, the city of Elko has broken ground for a new police station.

The $6.1 million project marks the first time the police department has occupied a building designed specifically for law enforcement. At 16,600 square feet, it’s double the footprint of the current police station.

“Elko hasn’t taken on a project this big for many years,” said Mayor Chris Johnson.

“It’s important for the quality of life … an investment back into the community.”

The new police station has been in play for nearly a decade — delayed by the search for funding, political capital, changes on the city council, and an ailing economy.

“Efforts came in little spurts, stops and starts,” said Police Chief Ben Reed, calling it a “long fight” for his predecessors.

“I came on (as police chief) one and half years ago and I’m proud to have helped put it into the end zone with a lot of other people.”

Johnson, who served on the city council for eight years before being elected mayor in 2011, and 12-year City Manager Curtis Calder are among those who have worked to carry the ball for the project through the years.

“We recognized the need for a new police station a long time ago,” Calder said.

The city retrofitted the current police building in the early 1980s and upgraded for ADA compliance in the 1990s. But there’s only so much that can be done.

Due to the small space, it lacks a meeting room, evidence is stored in several places, the wiring can’t handle modern electronics and the air system is inadequate.

Even worse, the city has repeatedly mitigated for black mold in the basement caused by leaky water pipes.

“It’s not safe anymore,” Calder said.

The planning process to replace the police station began nine years ago and the city has been socking away money from the facilities fund for years.

When the police station fund reached 50 percent of the expected costs, the city council approved a medium-term bond for $3.3 million to fund the rest.

About the same time, a new city council decided a site previously approved for the station, was too far from the center of town. A 3-acre parcel at Silver and 14th streets, a few blocks from the current police station, was purchased for $315,000.

“It’s a shovel-ready parcel,” Calder said.

LCA Architects of Elko designed the police station and MGM Construction, based in Salt Lake City, brought in a low bid of $5.4 million and was awarded the construction contract.

They broke ground April 6 and the station is expected to be ready to move into in about nine months.

“It’s a nice project; designed well,” said MGM project manager Nick Muhlestein, who has worked on a number of facilities requiring extra security. MGM has been the contractor for a number of capital improvement projects in Elko County.

“Construction itself is pretty straight forward. The challenge is scheduling; just to make it timely.”

Features of the new “purpose-built” police station include dedicated areas for an armory; evidence processing and secure storage. A 4,800-square- foot outbuilding will house vehicles, bicycles and tools.

The police department has 40 sworn officers for a total staff of 46½ positions.


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