FRUITLAND — The city of Fruitland had just 2,063 residents when its current city hall was built in 1974. Today, more than 5,200 people call Fruitland home, which officials say has caused local police to outgrow their headquarters.
City Hall shares its facilities with the city’s fire and police departments. To give residents an idea of how much need there is for expansion, the city began tours of the police station on Sept. 24.
The City of Fruitland is seeking a general obligation bond, listed as Ordinance No. 657 on the Nov. 5 ballot, in the amount of $2.6 million to add a new wing for Fruitland police. The bond would also cover costs to replace the roof, which leaks due to incongruence from previous remodels, as well as updating parking and fire lane layouts, according to information posted on fruitlandbond.org. The measure requires a two-thirds vote to pass.
Amanda Watson, founder and partner at Atlas Strategic Communications points out that general obligation bonds such as this are the most common way to fund renovations of publicly-owned buildings like a town hall.
“The people of Fruitland own our municipal buildings and capital projects such as these commonly require bonds in order to complete,” she said
A 2016 bond measure would have seen City Hall relocate to a new site, but it did not pass. If it had, Treasure Valley Classical Academy would have needed a different location as the plan was to purchase and refurbish the Olde School.
“The bond in 2016 that fell short of the super majority required to pass was a substantially larger project [$4 million more] in order to move City Hall to another, larger location,” according to Watson.
Visitors to the tours see first-hand just how cramped the police facility can be, with limited workspace for officers and even more limited space to interview victims, witnesses and suspects, as well as store evidence. Interviews currently take place in an area near the restrooms in their corner of the building.
“As you can imagine, we have a lot going here from day to day. We have citizens coming in for fingerprints and to make reports at the same time we have suspects and witnesses here to be interviewed,” according to Police Chief JD Huff. “It is [a] problem when it comes to security and anonymity. Our citizens should feel safe if having to visit our police department.”
Huff further attests to the awkward situation such cramped quarters brings.
“Our patrol room is positioned in such a way that the officers processing evidence and preparing reports on significant criminal cases have not enough room to do so without taking up the entire patrol room. These officers are also subject to every distraction that comes in and out of our office throughout the day. We have done a very good job of working within our means, but my fear moving forward is that this limited space will have an increasingly negative impact on our cases.”
Fruitland Mayor Brian Howell says while his staff are trying to live within their means, the need for expansion doesn’t go away.
“We will try to make addition modification to the staffing area of the building to fit all of the staff and equipment needed to run the city. As far as the building is concerned, we will continue to make repairs for as long as we can, but will eventually need to do some remodeling or rebuilding.”