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‘Beacon of safety:’ Dickinson police, fire break ground on multi-million center

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak, left, Mayor Dennis Johnson, center, and Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger attend Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s public safety center at State Avenue and 21st Street West. The 42,000 square-foot facility will be the new headquarters for both the fire and police departments.

The golden prop shovels didn’t actually break any ground at Wednesday’s “groundbreaking” ceremony for Dickinson’s public safety center, but construction on the multi-million dollar facility is set to begin next week.

Law enforcement, fire and city officials gathered at State Avenue and 21st Street West to dedicate the building, which will serve as the new headquarters of both the Dickinson Police Department and the Dickinson Fire Department.

Calls for service have increased tremendously since the start of the oil boom, city administrator Shawn Kessel said, putting a strain on police and fire staff who have to respond to more calls at farther distances as the city’s boundaries expand north and west.

The 42,000 square-foot building will be the home for the Dickinson Fire Department, which will transition its current downtown offices to a substation. Police dispatch, administration and training will also be transferred to the new building.

Fire Chief Bob Sivak said plans for the center began back in 2008 when the fire department realized the entire area north of the interstate was beyond the travel distance recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. His team thought they could build a small fire department substation to increase their coverage.

“Then the boom hit,” Sivak added.

It wasn’t until “things really started getting wild” a couple of years later that he and Police Chief Dustin Dassinger decided it was time that both departments needed a bigger, more modern facility to meet the community’s needs. The two co-wrote a proposal that earned a $1.5 million grant toward the $14 million project.

The Police Department has outgrown its law enforcement center on West Museum Drive, built in the 1980s, Dassinger said.

“We have a lot of people squeezed into offices, a lot of equipment beginning to pile up in the corner because we outgrew it,” he said. “We have no room to put this stuff in.”

Dassinger said in his dedication speech that the facility will “be a major tool in the recruiting and retention efforts.”

One of the building’s features the police chief said he is looking forward to is a large classroom made for training law enforcement officials from across the region.

Dassinger and Sivak worked closely with construction management firm JE Dunn to build the facility.

Plans for the building include indoor police car and fire truck bays, administrative offices and sleeping quarters for firefighters.

Smaller cities often combine police and fire departments in one building, said Mark Melmer, manager of JE Dunn Construction, the company behind the building’s erection.

“It’s a unique project,” Melmer said. “It brings both the fire chief and police chief and city administration to work on this as one.”

Melmer estimated construction will take about 12 months from the literal groundbreaking next week. The facility should be open next summer.

Mayor Dennis Johnson told the crowd the facility will be a “beacon of safety” for the growing city, which will see a new public works building, animal shelter and wastewater treatment facility in the near future.

“Out of this oil development, we have to as a community get some nice things,” Johnson said. “And this building, this public safety center, is going to be one of those nice things.”