More than six years after voters gave the go-ahead, Leawood police and municipal court officials have moved to a new public safety center that promises to make them more efficient while making it easier for the public to pay their debts to society.
By TERI SCHAEFER
Special to The Star
“The things in Leawood tend to be grand,” Detective Jason Ahring said Monday as he settled into the new building. “I think the police deserve it.”
The two-story facility — known officially as the Leawood Justice Center, at 4201 Town Center Drive — cost $21.7 million to build.
When Leawood voters approved a .4 percent sales tax in November 2006, the cost was estimated to be $12 million to $16 million. An added parking garage contributed to the extra costs, said Public Works Director Joe Johnson.
The sales tax paid half the cost; the other half came from a Johnson County public safety tax. The city accumulated the tax money and then paid for the building instead of going into debt and paying off bonds with the tax money, Johnson said.
The main building is 62,000 square feet, with an additional 9,000 square feet of unfinished basement space.
The city employs 84 police officers and civilians to protect its 33,000 residents. The new building is the right size for a suburban community like his, Leawood Police Chief John Meier said.
Despite the relatively high price tag, public support for the new structure appears solid. Leawood City Councilman Jim Rawlings said he hadn’t heard anyone in the community complain about the facility, hard to miss at the corner of Tomahawk Creek Parkway and 117th Street to the east of City Hall and Town Center Plaza.
“It puts the police station right in the middle of Leawood,” he said.
The voters approved the tax to finance the construction of the police station by a wide margin, Rawlings pointed out.
Chief Meier said he was fortunate to enjoy widespread public support.
“I’m ... incredibly blessed to be in a community that supports its public safety facilities,” he said.
Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn also expressed pleasure at the final result of the long process to build the new center.
“The outward appearance is extremely stately,” she said. “Inside, I believe it’s very functional.”
Meier on Monday conducted a tour of the now open, all-brick building, pointing out several of its state-of-the-art features.
The building emphasizes security and privacy. Special cards are required to open most of the doors. The municipal court — where residents pay speeding tickets and other fines — now has a full complement of police officers. The old municipal court space, housed at city hall, didn’t have room for enough officers required for security.
The evidence room is more spacious than the old police headquarters at 96th Street and Belinder Road, with an abundance of storage space. The dispatch center has video displays of the 78 cameras that monitor the inside of the imposing structure and the parking lots.
And the architect didn’t scrimp on meeting rooms. Two are for training. One is for roll call, while two more are for public use.
The new building also will help officers stay fit. It includes a training and work-out facility and separate locker rooms for the male and female officers.
“Sixty-five percent of our officers work out every day. Police are notorious for bad backs, so we want them to take care of their bodies and retire from here healthy,” Meier said.
An underground parking lot opens right into the cells where suspects are held until police transfer them to the Johnson County Jail. There are five holding cells: three for adults, two for juveniles.
Rawlings said the police department outgrew its former station at least 10 years ago. There was such a shortage of room that detectives had to move into two double-wide trailers to interview their witnesses and victims and investigate cases.
Meier said the newer spaces would help crime victims. “They won’t have to go into a double-wide trailer to talk to the detectives,” he said.
The architect was Hoefer Wysocki. The firm has built other police stations in the metro area, Rawlings said. The general contractor was Titan Built.
Before the architect designed the structure, police officials toured other police stations in the metro area to see what features they might want in Leawood.
Meier said the city picked up some good ideas from the tour. But he likes what he has now.
“Ours is better,” he said.