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New police precinct discussed
City Hall 2020.jpg
City officials have discussed moving the Police Department from City Hall, a capital improvement project Mayor Ryle Chastain believes should be put on hold until officers are first paid more.

McMinnville officials are once again considering a permanent home for McMinnville Police Department. 

Proposed is earmarking $4 million over the next three years, although Mayor Ryle Chastain voiced his disproval for a new police station until police officer salaries are increased.

Members of the city Safety Committee met Friday to review McMinnville Police Department’s proposed operations budget for fiscal year 2022-23. 

With it was a capital projects list that estimated $100,000 for creating design plans in 2022-23, as well as $2 million in 2023-24 and $2 million in 2024-25 for construction.

“In terms of the design for the police station, are we looking at putting $2 million into the budget over the next two years so that we can move forward,” said Alderman Zach Sutton. 

“We’ve had designs, we’ve had plans. Before we spend $100,000 in design, is the goal over the next two years to break ground? If we aren’t ready to do that, I don’t think we need to spend $100,000 to draw up plans,” Sutton said.

Alderman Everett Brock stated, “We are going to have to discuss this in a Finance Committee meeting. That’s the way I look at it at this point. It has been suggested and I even said something about Pacesetters, but I’m not sure that’s a good option. There are other options we need to discuss.” 

Sutton replied, “When you look at a map of Pacesetters, it looks like it has plenty of land. About half of that is a 30-foot ditch that is just a huge sinkhole. There’s not enough parking over there. It’s very small compared to what they need.” 

“I don’t like the location,” said Brock. “We would have to reinforce it. There are lots of negatives with that. I have some other alternatives I would like to bring up also.” 

The Police Department was moved from the Blue Building in 2009 and into a rental space at Red Road Business Park. It remained housed on Red Road until 2020 when officials opted to move the department into City Hall as a cost-saving measure.

For more than a decade, discussions have taken place regarding a permanent location. The last discussion included design plans and a location overlooking Pepper Branch Park. 

Mayor Ryle Chastain voiced a desire to increase the salaries of police and fire personnel, over construction of a new police precinct. 

“We’ve got a brand new police station so come to work for the police department in McMinnville. We can’t pay you anything, but we’ve got a brand new police station,” Chastain said. “Our firefighters and our police officers, we’ve said it time and time again over the last year, are underpaid in comparison to all the communities around us. We are continually losing them soon after training to go to higher paying jobs. I will not support moving forward with plans for a new police station as long as our pay situation is what it is right now for police and fire. I just won’t do it.” 

Brock replied, “I don’t think they are mutually exclusive.”

Chastain replied, “I know that it’s been said that we need a permanent home and that would be wonderful for us to build a dedicated police department, but I still can’t get behind it when the pay is what it is for our firefighters and police officers.”

Also making the capital project list, proposed for 2022-23: $216,000 for six vehicles, $18,600 in communication equipment, $73,000 to outfit patrol cars, $42,000 for Tasers, and $28,400 for SWAT ballistic vests. 

McMinnville Police Department’s proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2022-23 is $4.1 million. That budget and the capital projects list were given initial review by the city Safety Committee, but have yet to be approved.