First came talk, then came planning — followed by a steering committee’s work, voter approval for funding, and about a year of construction. Tuesday, it all came together: the new Montrose Police Department Public Safety Complex opened to the public.
“This facility will be a home for public safety in our city for many years to come and we’re proud to be its first occupants,” Chief Blaine Hall said during the grand opening ceremony that brought the governor and many other state and local dignitaries to the brand-new, $18 million complex.
“Investments like this building today will increase safety for years to come,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who attended the ceremony with Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper, State Rep. Marc Catlin, outgoing Sen. Don Coram, local elected officials, and other dignitaries.
The new police headquarters, funded by a 0.58% sales tax increase, replaces the former police department that once sat at 434 S. First St., beside a drive-up bank. The new 36,000 square-foot facility encompasses the original 6,400 square-foot police department; the old bank site once between the police station and the historic Elks building was scraped.
“It will be the new working home of 61 police officers and 32 civilian employees,” Hall said. The size allows all employees to be in one location, as well as provides training space for law enforcement region-wide, records, evidence storage, separate space for victim advocates, vehicle storage, a set-up for future police K9s, peer support programs and a way to keep certain functions more secure.
“We were completely out of room and we were storing 13,000 pieces of evidence in an off-site area. This new building brings all of those functions under one roof,” Hall said. “In short, this facility will ensure that our police officers have sufficient space … in order to meet their challenges on a daily basis.”
As well, he pointed out the building’s community space “made for the people, for the people.”
Speakers on Tuesday touted the new complex as playing a critical role in public safety.
“This really shows law enforcement delivering on the ( pledge) they made to Montrose voters and really creating a state-of-the-art facility that will not only benefit Montrose, but also be available to law enforcement agencies regionally and across the state,” Polis said.
Team effort brought the facility to fruition, City Manager Bill Bell said. City and police officials have long known the police were out of the space required to have a fully functional, modernized force that could attract and retain officers.
A formal effort launched in 2018, with Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers and a city-established public safety advisory committee supporting the efforts. The committee helped educate the public about the needs; city council in 2019 placed Measure 2A before city voters, who approved a sales tax increase for public safety.
Council ultimately authorized more than $16.2 million for the building, but because the pandemic disrupted supply chains and drove up construction costs, the facility’s price tag is $18 million.
“It’s really a team effort here in Montrose to make big things happen,” Bell said. “If you look around at the things that have happened over the last couple of decades for a community of our size, it’s truly a place we should all be really proud of. … I hope all of you feel that same sense of pride in your community.”
The Blue Ribbon Public Safety Committee that gathered information to inform the city council’s ultimate decision about seeking a ballot measure was “instrumental” in helping focus on what was wanted and needed, Mayor Dave Frank said. This committee transitioned into the public safety 2A sales tax advisory committee. Frank, who was not on city council at the time, was a member of the second group.
They did their research, he told those assembled: from riding along with police, to touring other police stations.
Frank said the citizens of Montrose had the foresight to pass the sales tax and the city is fortunate for the perseverance of staff, volunteers, partners and Shaw Construction.
“This project did not stop. It did slow down and we all acknowledge that. We had supply chain issues. We couldn’t get steel. We couldn’t get windows. We couldn’t get this, couldn’t get that. The project kept moving forward,” he said. “It’s because of the hard work from all of our partners that we stand here today in front of this.”
The new police headquarters fits into statewide efforts to combat crime and can serve as an example to other communities, Polis said.
The state is aiming to make Colorado one of the 10 safest states in the next five years. “It will take projects like this and other areas learning from it to make it happen,” the governor said. “Investments like this building today will increase safety for years to come.”
The state recently invested about $160 million to provide funding for equipment, hiring and retention.
“Traditionally, law enforcement has been locally funded, but the state is stepping up,” Polis said. “For the next two years, we’re sending money to local law enforcement agencies to help attract and retain police officers. They decide how to use it, but it’s usually a combination of retention bonuses and training subsidies.”
As well, the state is increasing funding for behavioral health response, he said. “That will help remove some of the burden that can better be dealt with by behavioral health specialists, so that law enforcement can focus on keeping the community safe and fighting crime.”
Polis in his address said law enforcement has not been immune to staffing shortages.
“This investment by the state will help local agencies draw from a stronger talent pool, provide incentives both for retention and hiring and help ensure more communities across Colorado can give officers the support they need to keep communities our safe,” Polis said.
Montrose invested in itself and that is worth celebrating, he said. “The fact that voters trusted the Montrose Police Department with an upgraded facility speaks to the volume of support that law enforcement has. … Safe communities are a critical part of our Colorado life,” said Polis.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.