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Police search for new home
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Billed as a temporary location at the time of the move, McMinnville Police Department has been on Red Road since November 2009.

McMinnville Police Department has issued a BOLO for its new headquarters. 

The “be on the lookout” is being conducted by Police Chief Bryan Denton. He was instructed by Board of Mayor and Aldermen members to evaluate city-owned properties and present locations for Safety Committee consideration.

Properties on Beersheba Street, Bell Street, South Chancery Street, and South High Street were proposed Tuesday night.

The Beersheba Street property is located at its intersection with Bernard Street. The building was previously used by McMinnville Water Department and on that spot is all that remains of the old Bernard School – its gymnasium. 

Alderman Kate Alsbrook pointed out that controversy will likely ensue if the city demolishes what remains of a black school to build a police department while refusing to consider demolition of the Blue Building for the same reason. 

“At some point,” said Alderman Ryle Chastain, “there was something mentioned about that property being donated to Young Men United or Wayne Wolford’s organization. I don’t know where that stands or if that’s even a thought anymore.”

Suggested was leaving the gym to allow it to be used. 

“We’d be cramped for space as it is,” said Denton. “The gym would have to come down for us to have enough space.”

The department’s preferred location is on South High Street behind the Blue Building. 

“If you ask me what my No. 1 site is, that’s my No. 1 site,” said Denton. “I think the issue with that is the uncertainty of what’s going to happen with the Blue Building. I don’t think we would want to push right up against that building not knowing what is going to go on there.” 

Denton said his No. 2 site – the Bell Street property – is quickly taking the lead. Purchased by the city in 2017, he proposed constructing a police department behind the 46,000-square-foot industrial building on that property overlooking Pepper Branch Park.

 “I’ve come to like that property a lot more,” said Denton. “It is owned by the city. It, of course, overlooks the park. That park is growing. We thought we could have a multi-level building there, two levels with a basement. I’ve thought about how cool would it be to come over Frank G. Clement Bridge, look over to your right over the park and see a police building there. In my mind, with the way that area is growing, I think people would feel more secure to see a police department there. That’s fast becoming my favorite, No. 1, or whatever you want to call it, spot.”

That view is why city officials recently discussed constructing an outdoor amphitheater during a capital project planning session on Jan. 8.

Alderman Rachel Kirby suggested renovating part of the industrial building for the department. 

“It’s a huge building,” she said. 

Mayor Ben Newman agreed, but Alderman Mike Neal did not. 

“We just voted to spend $10 million on the Civic Center and I don’t want to short change these boys at all,” said Neal. “They deserve a new building. One of them told me the other night that he’s ashamed for people to come to where they are now. That’s not right.”

Newman expressed a desire to preserve park spaces.

“Park space is hard to come by,” said Newman. “Our parks are relatively finite in what we have. If we take up another park area with something, you are never going to get that back. The police department will be there for years to come.”

Neal questioned the priority of parks being placed over everything. 

“Do we have to save everything for parks? We’ve spent $10 million on the Civic Center. Does Parks and Recreation get priority over everything? I guess that’s the question. There’s a problem with the Blue Building property, according to you. You think the police don’t need to be able to look at the mountains and that may need to be a park.”

Newman replied, “No, I don’t think the Blue Building has to be a park. I do think there’s a better use for it than putting a police department there when you consider the location and view that it has. I’m not saying it needs to be turned into a park, but I think that at some point there will be a better use for that particular property than a police department.”

The S. Chancery Street property is located next to McMinnville Aluminum and Vinyl. 

“I think that area would work,” said Denton. “It’s not our favorite, but it would work. We would not have enough space there to park our police cars around the building. What we’d probably want to do is build a basement with two levels. The top one would be where the police officers would come in. We would hope to have an entrance from High Street.”

When the discussion exceeded the allotted 20-minute meeting time by 15 minutes, members agreed to reconvene Feb. 26.