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Full Speed Ahead Civic Center Construction On Schedule
The upstairs storage area is as big as the entire department is now.

That's just one of the facts that has employees eager to move in to the new Escalon Civic Center on McHenry Avenue.

Slated for occupancy this fall, the first of two buildings to be done will house the Escalon Police Department and officials are keeping close tabs on the progress of the work being done at the McHenry Avenue location.

A tour of the under construction facility was staged on Thursday, while the new communications tower - some 140 feet high - is going in this week.

Housed in the small building on Coley Avenue right now, the police department splits space with the Community Development Department, which has an office down the hall from the main police department office. There is also a small meeting room, holding cells and an area for fingerprinting.

A small storage room overflows with items, and there is precious little room for evidence storage.

All that will change, however, once the move is made to the new site.

Police Chief Doug Dunford said rather than one large room where officers, the code enforcement, animal control and police services manager all have their own areas, the new building will feature actual offices.

The chief will have an office, as he does now, but others will be added for Police Services Manager Dorothy Vandagriff, the animal control and code enforcement officers will share an office and there will be a series of separate work stations for patrol officers, along with an office for the on duty sergeant.

"We also have expansion room for future use," Dunford explained of a couple of as-yet unassigned rooms.

The facility features both dispatching and reception areas, a training room, an emergency operations center, evidence processing room, two holding cells and a pair of interview rooms, plus separate locker rooms and showers for male and female officers.

"Right now, I can be in my office and see and hear everybody," Dunford said of the current department set up, noting that will change dramatically with the larger facility.

Still, he and other department employees are looking forward to the change.

"When they first started, it was just dirt," Dunford said of ground being broken for the new police department complex back in mid-March of this year.

Escalon City Council members at that time joined in a brief ceremony to turn the first shovels full of dirt at 2040 McHenry Avenue. The police department facility is the first of two that will be built out, with all other city offices - except Public Works - eventually relocating to the other building at 2060 McHenry.

The base bid for the police department work was awarded to SW Allen Construction of Sacramento, with a cost of $1,973,901. The bid was the lowest of 18 submitted for the project. Other costs will include furnishing the building, upgrading the police department dispatch, communications and 911 system and upgrading the city's overall computer network system along with replacement of the city's phone system.

City officials at first had hoped to build out both 2040 and 2060 McHenry at the same time so all the city offices could relocate together. But with the prevailing economic conditions, City Manager Greg Greeson said it made more fiscal sense to move forward with one building now and do the other one later, when conditions improve.

While space is also at a premium at City Hall, Greeson said it was more prudent to move the police department first because of the need to upgrade the 911 system.

The base bid of just under $2 million, combined with furniture and equipment costs, the communications upgrade and upgrades to the city's computers and phone systems comes in at just over $3.4 million.

Once the police department has moved in to its new location, the engineering department will relocate from its current portable trailer to the Coley Avenue police building.

"We probably won't do too many changes, just clean it up a little," Greeson said of having the engineering department take over the old police station.

Construction is moving ahead on schedule at the McHenry Avenue site, with a completion date anticipated in mid-September and a move in by the department anticipated by the end of October.

"It's picking up speed," Dunford agreed of the project. "Every day things are changing."