Despite a few glitches, including a phone system that didn’t quite work the way it was supposed to, the transition to the new building on 13th Street was complete when public-safety officials swung open their doors on Monday.
“Police conducted their first fingerprinting [for a background check] at 8:20 this morning and fire service started running out calls shortly after 10 a.m. We’re up and running,” project manager Nick Mcray told commissioners at Monday’s work session.
Mcray said the $20 million facility is expected to be fully functional in time for the public grand opening set for Nov. 5, when tours will be offered starting at noon.
“We’re really looking forward to showing off the facility to the community,” he said.
While workers continued to put the finishing touches on the building, police and fire personnel praised the two-story, 76,000-square-foot facility for providing much larger quarters and enhancing service.
“We’re glad to be back in a 24/7 building,” Police Chief Brian Tooley said in reference to the old headquarters, which was only open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. “I’ve been looking forward to this.”
Tooley said the extra space provides his department a number of benefits. For example, in the former headquarters, the interview room was located in the investigations area.
“The victims and suspects were right next to each other, along with the families of either or both, creating obvious problems,” he said.
Also, police—now occupying 52,000 square feet, four times what they had in the old building—have a room dedicated to voice-stress analysis (lie-detector) tests and a room for citizens to receive blood-pressure checks. In addition, there is a separate community room for public use.
Meanwhile, firefighters also are enjoying their expanded surroundings, going from 9,000 square feet to 24,000. In fact, the old fire headquarters would fit inside the new apparatus bay, which holds up to seven fire trucks and rescue vehicles.
Other comparisons are equally dramatic, said Emergency Medical Services Battalion Chief Shawn Treloar.
In their previous location, built in 1958, the three battalion shifts all shared the same office space. If schedules overlapped, there were no accommodations available.
“People didn’t even have a place to plug in their computer,” he said.
Moreover, the former air pack repair room consisted of nothing more than a closet-sized 8-foot-by-4-foot space. The new repair room for this vital breathing equipment is actually a room, and a large one to boot.
In addition, the old Emergency Operations Center, the communications hub during a natural disaster, didn’t even have its own permanent location in the old headquarters. Instead, every time firefighters wanted to use the space for training purposes, they had to it set up first.
“It took an hour for us to hook up the cables, computers and phones,” Treloar said. “By that time it was time to stop.”
The ultramodern EOC is a turnkey operation, complete with workstations, up-to-date technology and big-screen LCD monitors for viewing news and weather reports. The center also has the capacity to broadcast training exercises and briefings throughout the building.
The present-day fire headquarters features vastly improved technology in other areas as well, such as a communications network that is integrated with Seminole County’s new dispatching system, as well as an intercom system linking the entire facility.
“The old system was screaming somebody’s name,” he said.
In addition, the new facility has plenty of space for two administrative positions and 11 firefighters per shift, including 17 bunkrooms with beds and lockers.
Also, the updated kitchen can serve up to 200 meals at a time, compared to 10 at a time in the old building.