COLUMBUS, Neb. – Columbus Police Chief Chuck Sherer believes after staying at their current facility for the past 25 years, a more expansive and efficient facility is a need.
“This is something we’ve got to do, not something we should do, but something that we’ve got to do,” says Sherer.
Columbus residents will vote in May to approve two buildings in a joint vote, a fire station in west Columbus and a new police station, located on the former property of Gene Steffy Ford. The buildings would be funded off issuing bonds from the current sales tax rate.
If the voters reject the joint building proposal, Sherer says they’d have a litany of issues to be dealt with immediately.
“We’re going to absolutely have to fix the roof, we’re going to have to replace the windows, we’re going to have to do something in the basement with ventilation, do something to accommodate the storage of evidence, those things are going to have to, have to happen,” says Sherer.
Still, the station, which is a former bank that now houses 50 employees in a growing department, is noticeably cramped. Items such as equipment and records are stored in any place they can find. One closet houses electrical wiring, dangerous chemicals, the water heater, pipes, internet router and various tools.
Both patrol and investigation officers are forced to work in tight rooms, with limited equipment. Sherer says because of extra rules around juveniles, CPD can’t always properly detain them.
The basement, where evidence including drugs is kept, does not have proper ventilation, endangering employees. Dangerous drugs such as Fentanyl can’t be stored at the facility in a safe manner.
The most worrying for Sherer is the lack of a sally port, or garage, to transport prisoners from vehicles to the facility. Currently they are forced to conduct the exchange outdoors.
“Bringing prisoners in from the street into our facility, we’ve had several attempted escapes,” says Sherer.
Once the prisoners are inside things can still be risky. Because of the lack of space, a detainee walks across the hallways, past offices, coffee pots and everybody else in the station.
“Bringing people in contact with prisoners is never a good thing,” says Sherer.
So with all the issues, Sherer believes the department would work more efficiently if given a better and larger space.
“We can do so much better if we were given those other facilities, says Sherer.
And he thinks a new station, with room to expand, could last decades.
“We want to build 20-30 years into the future, says Sherer.
He also believes a new station would be a pillar of downtown Columbus.
“I think it would improve community pride of the residents of the community and particularly of the downtown residents and businesses. It’s important for us to stay downtown, says Sherer.
Voters will cast their ballots on May 15th of this year.