NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – City leaders are looking for land that would suit the Noblesville Police Department, and the city's police chief thinks the old Firestone plant on the southeast edge of downtown is the best route.
The police department is currently housed in the city's public safety building, along with the fire department. The building used to be the post office, but the police station moved there in 1992.
“Noblesville has grown a tremendous amount since this building was built," said Chief Kevin Jowitt. “No one saw the growth in the City of Noblesville or Hamilton County, the rate at which things were growing.”
In 1992, the city's population was roughly 20,000 people. Today the population has tripled to an estimated 60,000.
The size of the police department has done the same. The staff is now made up of a little more than 90 people.
Jowitt said the city's prosecuting attorney uses a room that once had all the vending machines and there's not enough room for the attorney to have a guest sit down to talk.
"The laboratory is maxed out," said Jowitt. "About 40 percent of our male officers don’t have lockers. Our investigation space is very inadequate. We have about half the space in there we need."
The police are working with roughly 12,000 square feet and a consultant last told the department it should be operating in roughly 25,000 square feet. Jowitt wants an area that has at least 40,000 square feet.
With five options being considered, which includes doing nothing, Jowitt said the best option he believes is to buy and build on the old Firestone plant, which closed in 2009.
“This is way that we can do something that will be an enhancement, very much, in that area, both in terms of making the slab useful and attractive, and hopefully provide some stimulus to that part of town," Jowitt said.
The chief said he's also looked at ways to re-purpose old buildings in the city, and has visited police stations in Valparaiso and Hobart, where the two communities have made police stations out of buildings that were not being used.
There are still hurdles city leaders need to leap over before the chief's ideal plan can come to fruition. Firestone still owns the land and the city needs to get the right results from an environmental study to know if the land can be built upon.
While city leaders don't currently have any legislation or bills on the table that would move the city closer to getting the land or a new police headquarters, Republican Councilman Greg O'Connor is hopeful the council will get a planned laid down by the end of the year.
“It’s time to pick an area, make a decision and go with it," said O'Connor, who represents the city's 5th district. "I think the need is there and we’ve seen the results of the chief’s work.”
The project could cost an estimated $14 million, and O'Connor said the city has several tools it could use to make the cost as little of a burden as possible on the city's taxpayers.
“Certainly nothing in construction is inexpensive," said O'Connor. "If it allows us to make an investment in an area in the city and we can put a police force in a facility that can better accommodate their needs, I think it’s a win-win for the city.”