The proposed building will consist of three floors, with an area of 63,000 square feet
Initial plans for the combined police and fire station at the River City Hall site on Camino del Rio include a three-story facility and a total built-up area of 63,000 square feet, as discussed at a public meeting at the Powerhouse Science Center Thursday night.
The City of Durango and the Durango Fire Protection District held the meeting to share progress on a feasibility study that seeks to determine whether River City Hall is the appropriate location for a combined downtown police and fire station.
Photographs and media materials on easels with sticky notes in hand about the Powerhouse were backed up for audiences to review and provide comments, questions and concerns during the open house after a presentation by Lee Petty and Ann Christensen of DHM Design.
Likewise, members of the DFPD and the Durango Police Department, including Fire Chief Hal Dottie and Police Chief Bob Brammer, were on standby to answer questions regarding the joint fire and police station project and speak about the needs of both agencies.
DHM Design’s presentation outlined key details about the project, such as the reason for examining the River City Hall site and potential development challenges there, such as the fact that the site is on a flood plain and other environmental factors that need to be taken into account. But some new information was revealed during the meeting as well, including the overall size of the planned building.
Petty said the building as proposed will house both the Durango Police Department and the DFPD and will include a common space such as a break room, training facilities and parking.
Current design ideas envision that the building will occupy 120,500 square feet; The fire department’s portion of the building will occupy 27,000 square feet, a significant upgrade from the existing DFPD fire station downtown that uses only 9,000 square feet of space, according to Betty Show.
The police department currently occupies approximately 14,500 square feet, and the proposed building will give more space to store evidence and examine evidence, two areas where the police department has been disrupted as a result of cramped neighborhoods.
Brammer, the police chief, said officers handling evidence in the police department should do so in a small room without proper ventilation. DHM Design’s presentation used fentanyl as an example of a hazardous substance that officers would come into contact with in an inadequate space.
He said that the current administration building relies on restrooms used by suspects, detainees and officers alike, which poses a danger to officers.
He said earlier this week that a suspected woman who needed to use the restroom and was not followed by officers to the toilet, tried to escape by climbing to a place in the ceiling and rushing through the rafters.
Administrative offices are adjacent to rooms occupied by victims or suspects, and conversations are easy to hear through walls, sometimes exposing staff to the shocks of law enforcement investigations and operations.
Petty said the proposed building would accommodate long-term growth and expansion not only in the fire department but also in police operations.
He said the building could be up to three stories tall with a basement car park and a second and third floor car park, although plans are not final.
DFPD River City Hall engaged with city employees, and asked attendees where they were going, as well as where Station 2 employees would go during construction of the combined police and fire building.
Christensen said the new location for city employees who were displaced by the potential project is still under discussion. The Durango 9-R School Administration Building at 12th Street and 2nd East Avenue, which the DFPD purchased in December, could serve as a temporary home for Station 2 crews.
She added that the issue of obtaining a parcel from her neighboring company Backcountry Experience was also discussed, although this too is still under discussion.
Mark Masur, a member of the Powerhouse board of directors, said he heard both positive and worrisome things at the meeting on Thursday. He said the mention of a potential shared classroom space between the Powerhouse and a potential fire and police building is good news. But he questions comments about how the development could “enhance” the Animas River course that runs along the western side of River City Hall.
He is also concerned about parking and trespassing on Powerhouse land during the development of the River City Hall site.
Regarding potential new classroom space, he said, “Science education is one of our primary goals. If we are going to continue to grow, it is something we need.”
After MakerLab, a metal fabrication facility, moved out of the Powerhouse earlier this year, he said, more classroom space became available and capacity immediately increased. Attendance at Powerhouse summer camps has also grown in recent years, which means the more classroom space an institution can secure, the better.
Sarah Kelly, a Durango resident and air quality scientist, said the need for a new fire and a police station was evident Thursday night. She said the agencies are 10 years behind on the new facilities. But she shares Powerhouse’s concerns.
“I hope there will be common ground,” she said. “What do children love? What get children excited? They love firefighters. They love policemen. And they love science and art.”
Project costs have not yet been determined. The goal of the meeting was to let the public know how the River City Hall site analysis was conducted, as well as provide updates on what the site might look like. The next general meeting is scheduled for January.
An earlier version of this story gave incorrect square footage of the proposed building in River City Hall that would house police and fire departments.
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