By Morgan Bryce
The City of Opelika held a groundbreaking ceremony today to celebrate the construction of a new, 37,000 sq. ft. police department facility, slated for completion in late 2019 or early 2020.
Featuring local officials and dignitaries, the event’s main speaker was Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, who shared that the project is the realization of more than five years of serious discussion and planning.
“We’re thrilled to break ground on this new Opelika Police Department … this new facility is going to give our officers and staff more room than they’ve got, more storage for the retention of evidence, a new control room, lockers, gym and upgraded kennels for our K-9 officers,” Fuller said.
During the expected 12-18 month-long construction process, Opelika’s Municipal Court and its operations have been moved 608 Ave. A, with weekly court sessions being held at the Southside Center for the Arts, located at 1103 Glenn St.
Anita Comer, city’s municipal court clerk, and Denise Rogers, head of the city’s probation division, both said the expansion will be a huge benefit to their departments.
“We’re going to have much, much more space to work. We’re going to be able to come back over (from their temporary location) and function a lot better with extra parking spaces for defendants to come to court,” Comer said.
For OPD Police Chief John McEachern, who joined OPD in 1974, the move is bittersweet, but necessary move for the city to make moving forward.
“I’ve spent a good bit of time in that building … I was gone for a while but have been back for 5 1/2 years now. There is a lot of sentimental value there in that building, for me personally … I walked a lot of miles in there,” McEachern said. “(But) we’re so excited to get started with the project, even though we know it’s going to take a year and half to two years until it’s completed. This building is going to have so much more space, and it’s space that we’ve needed for a very long time.”
According to a report during a July 3 Opelika City Council meeting, City Attorney Guy Gunter said the project will not exceed $18,533,407.
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