Diana Alba Soular , Las Cruces Sun-News Published 7:10 p.m. MT June 15, 2017
LAS CRUCES – Under a scorching summer sun, Las Cruces officials gathered Thursday afternoon to ceremonially mark the opening of a newly constructed, more than $10 million fire-police station on the East Mesa.
The completion of the building, which is north of the intersection of Sonoma Ranch Boulevard and East Lohman Avenue, is months behind schedule because of a variety of delays, city officials said.
Even so, police officers said the 35,000-square-foot facility is a much-needed expansion to the department’s space, which currently is limited to a crowded main building in the city’s center and assorted smaller offices in other parts of town. And, fire officials said it will be a new home to Fire Station No. 8, also marking the start of a new command division to serve the city’s growing east side.
Police and firefighters who attended Thursday’s event said the shared quarters will take some adjustment. But overall, they were impressed.
“It’s awesome,” said Las Cruces firefighter Steve Gonzales, who visited the building for the first time since its completion. “It’s an amazing facility.”
The three-story facility features a three-bay fire station, a shared police-fire workout gym and several police divisions, such as criminal investigations, environmental codes and animal control, and the K-9 unit. Not all of the police units have moved in yet. The fire crew launched operations at the facility on May 30 after the city received a building occupancy permit on April 26, according to city officials.
A combined space
City officials said the facility, while brand-new, will be a return to the past in a way. Before the city built its main police station on Picacho Avenue in 1991, fire and police were housed in the same building.
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said a large part of the funding for the building stemmed from city councilors agreeing to use a pool of $10 million in bond funding that becomes available every three years for the project, which is in City Council District 6. He said it “really is a great day.”
“The City Council came together and decided to use it (bond funding) for this,” he said.
The building’s gym features a newly designed hybrid logo of both the fire and police departments.
City Councilor Ceil Levatino, whose district includes the new facility, said the day’s celebration was “long-awaited.” The new building is a “fabulous place” that will serve residents well.
“It is the fastest-growing area in the city,” she said. “The need has been great.”
Why the delay?
The building, which broke ground in May 2015, was slated to wrap up last fall. Then city officials said it would be done in late January.
City Manager Stuart Ed said there were “several factors” behind the delay.
“Unforeseen circumstances dealing with weather, site constraints, and the first-of-its-kind construction (poured-in-place concrete) type required adjustment of the time schedule,” he said in an email. “Some delays did not fit into the category of ‘unforeseen’ circumstances and have resulted in a settlement between the contractor and the city that will account for a $153,000 savings to the project’s overall cost.”
LCPD Police Chief Jaime Montoya recapped the history that led to the building’s construction, saying the department’s station on Picacho Avenue is over-crowded. The new building will grant an additional 17,000 square-feet of space to the police department alone.
Las Cruces Fire Department Chief Eric Enriquez said the new facility will be home to the East Area Command, a new division within the department’s chain of command that will be based on the city’s east side.
“This project has been long-overdue,” he said.
The building contains a community room, and Enriquez said a new event, called “Coffee with the Chiefs,” will be held there for members of the public to talk to both agencies’ leaders.
After a ceremony, dozens of dignitaries, police officers, firefighters and residents streamed through the building’s halls, as city personnel led tours.
“It’s outstanding; it’s really nice,” said Rod Gajewski, a Las Cruces veteran who attended. “It makes for good working conditions and morale for the people who work here.”
The building features a sally port, in which officers can drive into to unload detainees; some holding cells; and dog kennels for LCPD’s K-9s. Solar panels that double as shade structures for the building’s employee parking lot are another feature.
LCPD’s detective unit, the Criminal Investigations Section, has been split in two with 10 investigators and a supervisor being assigned to the East Mesa Public Safety Complex.
“We still work citywide,” said detective Frank Torres, who’s assigned to the new building.
Torres said several detectives were sharing office space at the Picacho Avenue police station. Now, personnel in the new building will each have their own office.
“It’s nice; there’s plenty of room,” he said. “We were having issues with overcrowding.”
The city’s police station at 217 E. Picacho Ave. will remain open.
Firefighters ceremonially pushed Fire Engine No. 8 into one of the bays — a long-held tradition, fire officials said.