Exposed wires, mold and asbestos-infested walls, a cracked foundation, leaky windows and faulty plumbing were some of the problems on display at the St. Petersburg Police Department on March 30.
On that day, as news broke that Mayor Bill Foster and the city of St. Petersburg were scrapping plans to build a new police headquarters, members of the Council of Neighborhoods Association toured the police buildings.
As the members walked through departments in the station, the guided tour served ad visible proof to some of the problems.
"It's just unacceptable," said Public Safety Chair of the neighborhoods association Kurt Donley. "That’s ridiculous for a modern police force."
Donley, who organized the tour, said he went into the tour expecting to see cramped spaces with a few leaks here and there inside the police department.
"I didn’t realize how unsuitable it is for their job," he said.
As first reported by the Tampa Bay Times , Foster said he is scrapping plans to build a new $64 million police station because of lack of funding.
"One thing I do know is we won't build a new ($64 million) station any time soon," Foster said in an interview with the Times.
"I didn’t like the idea of him giving up," Donley said of Foster's decision not to pursue a new station. "Oddly enough, the only part of the police station that is working in a 21st century manner is the call center, and that is the one thing ."
Friday's tour was led by Michael McDonald with the St. Pete Police Department. He said the department has been making the conditions work, but at some point major changes will have to be made.
"The primary problem with this building is the structural integrity," McDonald said. "There is nothing we can do to make these hardened buildings. That is enough reason in and of itself not to do a retro-fit."
Other major areas of concern that were shown to members of the neighborhoods association tour included:
- Toilets on the fourth floor won't flush.
- No ventilation system in evidence room.
- Lack of reinforced walls. No rebar.
- Inefficient evidence entry system.
- Comm. Center radios in room only protected against rain/leaks with plywood.
- No prisoner holding area.
- Ammunition/explosives storage areas with no sprinkler system.
McDonald told the group during tour that the renovation costs being thrown around would be putting a BandAid on a giant wound.
"If we invested the $7 milion to $10 million (for maintenance costs) ... and tried to renovate the buildings, all you would be doing is trying to bring them up to current code standards. You wouldn’t be making any enhancements to the operational capability."
The code standards are something the police and Donley said are a major cause for concern. With the current conditions at the station, OSHA could shut it down, Donley said.
"If that were a commercial business, with the mold, plumbing issues, (OSHA) would shut it down," Donley said of the St. Pete Police Station.
Donley said he would be willing fork over additional taxes or support the city issuing bonds if the money would go to building a new police station. If the public paid $12 a month in additional taxes over the course of a year, Donley said the city could raise the money necessary to pay for the building to go along with the $32 million the city already has for the police station.
"The primary purpose for our government is public safety," Donley said. "Their primary tool (for public safety) is law enforcement and the fire department. And the police don’t have the right tools. The city is being irresponsible."