City leaders have no immediate plans to permanently address Fargo police space woes
FARGO - Police here say they are running out of space for work stations, storage and parking at the department’s only station, but city officials have no immediate plans to permanently alleviate the growing pains.
The department has grown significantly since it moved in to the downtown station in the early 1990s. It now has 149 officers, up 38 percent since 2000 when the department had 108 sworn officers.
Rooms that hosted four cubicles now host eight, the copy room has a work station in it and a hallway was converted into an office for a sergeant.
The department’s quartermaster, Anise Lean, said there isn’t much room left to store the department’s uniforms, badges, handcuffs, body armor and all other sorts of equipment.
“We just kind of keep going up,” she said, referencing stacks of equipment piling up in one of the storage closets.
Parking is another issue. Often, there aren’t enough spots in its lot to park all police vehicles. Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said they have to store some vehicles off site.
The parking situation affects the public, too.
Ternes said there is limited visitor parking and given the station is downtown, finding street parking near the station can be a hassle.
City Administrator Pat Zavoral said a new station isn’t a priority right now because there are other projects deemed more important, such as a new City Hall and an additional fire station in south Fargo.
“Right now, we’re focusing on the expansion to the CVS building to include police offices out there, which will give the police department some room to maneuver here in terms of space over the next five to eight years,” Zavoral said.
The expansion to the old CVS/Sunmart building on 13th Avenue and 25th Street South, which will serve as the Fargo Cass Public Health, the Cass County Coroner’s Office and a police substation, is only a temporary solution for the Police Department, police officials say.
Ternes said the satellite facility will help somewhat by providing some work space, but its primary use will be giving area residents access to the Police Department. It won’t be a full-fledged station with the same capabilities as the downtown headquarters, he said.
The police chief said a larger, more centrally located station or an additional station in the southwest part of Fargo will be necessary to keep up with the department’s growth.
“We have found the space that we currently have here is quickly becoming inadequate,” Ternes said.
Lt. Joel Vettel, the department’s spokesman, said officers who patrol in the far south region of Fargo have to spend at least an hour traveling to and from their patrol areas, which is not an efficient use of time.
Though there are no plans to build an additional station, Ternes said he does think city officials support the department.
“All it takes is money and we’ve got to be cautious,” Zavoral said.
In the short term, the department continues to reconfigure its station to deal with the growth in staff.
Vettel said they may have to kick one of the deputy chiefs out of his office and put him in a smaller office to accommodate more desks in the larger space.
A new fire station will likely open in the southern end of the city sometime after 2017-2018, Zavoral said.
Ternes said that could be an opportunity for a police station to be co-located there to save on construction costs.