New building brings efficiency to operations in St. Francis

Curious St. Francis residents got the chance to tour the city’s new police/public works building and ask questions at an open house Dec. 13. City staff and officials who led the tours had only good to say about the enormous improvements in efficiency the 45,000 square-foot building has already provided the city in its first three weeks of occupancy.

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the reception area, attendees gathered in the facility’s conference room to hear from Mayor Jerry Tveit, Public Works Director Paul Teicher and Police Chief Jeff Harapat. That conference room — about 1,200 square feet — is roughly the same size as the entire former police department building, which barely allowed officers to meet some state requirements for handling evidence and questioning. There wasn’t even room for Harapat to have an office in the same building.

The new building provides sufficient office space — with the chief firmly on site with his team — and room for growth.

An evidence room with locking submission compartments allows evidence to be processed and stored properly.

A spacious squad room provides space for officers to write their police reports and complete their computer work, within view through a glass window of the building’s two holding cells. Every time one of these holding cells is occupied, it is saving police staff about an hour’s time formerly spent driving arrested subjects to the Anoka County Jail.

A large heated garage allows squad cars to be kept warm and ready to go at a moment’s notice. No longer will officers have to waste precious minutes warming and clearing their vehicles of snow before responding to a call.

There is even a room dedicated to proper gun cleaning and weapon maintenance.

The public works side of the building features a large, brightly lit heated garage for storing the city’s expensive trucks, snowplows and other equipment, which had previously been scattered about the city in various places, sometimes outdoors and constantly exposed to the elements.

Tveit said that during his campaign people had asked him how the city could afford to build a new building in the current economy. He said he viewed the real question as how could the city afford not to build it?

Some of the city’s trucks and equipment had been deteriorating at twice the rate they should have been because of cold and corrosion, according to Tveit.

Lack of efficiency was also costing the city money, with trips and manpower needed to access equipment that was poorly stored, Tveit said.

In addition, today’s low interest rates make the building as affordable as it could ever be, he said.

But Tveit was also quick to emphasize that the city has been frugal in planning the new building. For example, the conference room doubles as a lunchroom and training room. Floors throughout the building are either simple tinted concrete or covered in carpet tiles that can be individually replaced in case of damage or staining. Moldings and trim are low-maintenance rubber. Lights throughout the building are equipped with motion sensors and automatically turn off after a period of inactivity, saving the city electricity costs.

The building was designed and built to meet the city’s needs for at least the next 50 years and can be easily expanded if that becomes necessary.