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Dickinson Commission considers $8M public safety building

If the city can build an $8 million facility to house them, Dickinson's fire and police departments would like to move in together.

The Dickinson Police Department needs more space as it grows with the city; the Dickinson Fire Department needs a second station as the city grows to the north and west.

The newer station started as a fire department substation on the west side back in 2009, Fire Chief Bob Sivak said, but growth changed the needs of both agencies.

"We started talking about the concept of a public safety center -- a headquarters station for the fire department as well as a new location for the police department -- a joint building," he said.

The proposed public safety center could be built on the northwest side of Dickinson. Near the intersection of 21st Street and State Avenue has been suggested, but the project is in early stages right now, Dickinson police Capt. Dave Wilkie said.

"We just asked for it," he said. "We're just asking for a building that we can be in and the fire department can be in. We don't have any kind of design."

Before the city completed its 2012 annexations, the fire department was stretching Insurance Service Office support area recommendations; several sections added to the city over the course of the past year are far outside that boundary, Sivak said.

"If we have a station located along 21st Street -- somewhere in the vicinity of 21st Street and State Avenue -- and then put that same circle of coverage out there, it picks up all that area that's under development now, plus it picks up some of the industrial stuff that's been annexed in on the north end of town," he said.

In addition to more miles, the fire department also has to fight traffic, which has increased response times, Sivak said. In 2012 the majority of initial response times were still nine minutes or less, but it took longer for a full crew to arrive on scene.

"If we can do it right, we should be able to have a positive impact on what we're seeing as a response time that's just too long," he said.

If the police department is fully staffed, it will have 38 sworn officers and that will only grow as the population increases, Wilkie said.

"We've just run out of space and with everything that's going to happen -- the projections that we've got and everything -- we're just not going to fit everybody in this building," he said of their office space in the Law Enforcement Center on Museum Drive.

The department would like to grow with the population to keep up with Department of Justice standards, Wilkie said.

"To deviate too far from that puts you in a position -- we don't want to be like other agencies where we have to prioritize calls," he said. "We like the way things are right now; we don't have to prioritize calls. We take lost puppy calls every day."

This would not be the first time the two agencies have resided in the same facility, Wilkie said.

"We've always had really good relationships with the fire department," he said. "In fact, way back in the day, that fire department was the police and fire department. We were downstairs and the fire department was upstairs."

Other agencies may have office space in the public safety center, City Administrator Shawn Kessel told the Dickinson City Commission at Monday's regular meeting at City Hall.

The anticipated cost for the building is $6 million to $8 million, he said. The city has access to a $1.5 million grant to put towards construction.

In order to balance revenue streams, the public safety building will have to wait for construction until the public works building is well underway or complete, Commission President Dennis Johnson said.

The commission unanimously approved putting out requests for qualifications regarding the facility.

"There are other entities that would like to have an office -- so to speak -- in this building and pay a fee to be located here," he said. The North Dakota Highway Patrol, drug task force, FBI and other agencies have expressed some interest."

The RFQs are due back to City Hall on April 22, Kessel said. Once awarded, the firm chosen would begin the design phase.

There is no timeline set on the project.

If completed, both the departments would retain a presence at their current locations.

The fire department would move its main offices to the new building, Sivak said.

"The central station downtown would remain an active fire station -- it has to," he said. "It plays a key role in our response to the community, but it would no longer be our headquarter station."

Unless it upgrades its system, dispatch would have to stay at the Law Enforcement Center, as would the intoxilyzer machine, used for DUI arrests, Wilkie said.

"They need a building up north, we need space -- so I think it's a good marriage," he said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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