The Gainesville Police Department will make its move to the new public safety complex on Queen City Parkway next week, and officials are looking forward to more elbow room.
"The department as a whole is extremely excited, and an updated facility has been long awaited," Police Chief Brian Kelly said. "We're anticipating being able to increase efficiency and effectiveness to address quality of life issues and criminal concerns with more modern equipment, good offices and better organization."
The department's Jesse Jewell Parkway front office operations will close Thursday and Friday as records and office items are moved. The department will be open on Wednesday, but alcohol employee work permits will not be issued. The new facility will open as fully operational on Nov. 1.
"During the move, we won't shut down services. We're still 24/7 and 365, so there won't be a drop in calls or work," Kelly said. "We can't wait for it. It's going to help us all around."
The department will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony with city officials in mid-November and a family day celebration in the spring to let city residents see the building, emergency vehicles and public safety officials.
"We really appreciate the community support," Kelly said. "This wasn't just on the public safety side that helped get the project off the ground. We serve the residents, and they helped us get this new space."
A few patrol division officers moved into the new building this week.
"It was like Christmas for us. You can imagine sharing a closet with another officer, and moving over here gives us more room and better technology that goes with it," officer Kevin Holbrook said. "This is something we've been looking forward to for many years now. A few of us moved in early to get our feet wet and figure out where everything is and how it works. You can imagine the headaches it takes to move a police department."
The city opened up bids this week for 20 new televisions that will help with security monitoring, presentations and training in the police and fire department buildings of the new public safety complex. Officers said they aren't taking any luxury for granted.
"We're coming from a 10,000-square-foot building to a 55,000-square-foot building. We worked in closets," Capt. Chad White said with a laugh. "Now we have real offices. Everybody's morale is up, and the better phone lines and computer systems will make it a lot easier to help us serve citizens better."
Once police officials are moved in, municipal court operations will move over in a few weeks, which is a goal former Police Chief Frank Hooper set when the new building was first planned.
"One of my goals when I was made chief in 1998 was to get a better facility, and it was a very long and involved process," he said. "It took a while with the economy and different things, but it came to fruition, and I was glad to see it get started."
Having the courtroom in the same building will cut expenses and help with paperwork, he said.
"I can remember when I first made chief, we were running court out of the Georgia Mountains Center and rented the theater space two days a week to run court," said Hooper, who was chief for 12 years and retired in January. "Court had to be mobile and was basically in a few cardboard boxes that we had to move over and bring back each time."
Hooper visited the new building on Wednesday and walked around with some of the officers who moved in this week.
"It's great to see some of the things you saw on paper and coming out of the mud now come to finalization. I'm very proud of it," he said. "It's one of the better law enforcement facilities I've been in because the designers got input from employees on their work flow patterns. That really impressed me. We've always had a great police department, and this new building really complements the great men and women who work in its walls."