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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2021 3 months ago

'There he goes again': former Ormond Beach mayoral candidate opposes police station relocation

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Moving the police station is a bad idea, writes Rob Bridger.
by: Guest Writer

by: Rob Bridger, former Ormond Beach mayoral candidate

In the Ormond Beach Observer’s May 27 edition there’s an article highlighting our mayor’ desire to revisit a feasibility study for construction of a new police department. My fellow citizens, with respect to our mayor’s position regarding the need for new police building I am compelled to evoke Ronald Regan’s famous line from his 1980 presidential debate: “There he goes again."

There he goes again – cities across America are calling out for policing reform. But, while we need to be ensuring our Ormond Beach Police force’s sworn officers have the training, personnel and innovative technology resources needed to implement community policing, our mayor is calling for a new building.

There he goes again – focusing on bricks and mortar and developers’ interests, and not the real issues. As the article indicates, the police chief is in agreement for the need for a new facility. Let’s not forget that the chief serves at the pleasure of the commission – so of course he will support having a new building.

Make no mistake, I think Police Chief Godfrey does a great job with the resources he’s been provided. Previously, I’ve met the chief and he has met with our homeowner’s association. I respect him professionally, but he needs more help – not a new building. We need to focus our resources and efforts on policing, new
technologies and strategies, and not on building a new station. And we need to dedicate the tax payers’ dollars accordingly.

There he goes again – prioritizing developers’ interest and not working to maintain a stable law enforcement work force and presence in our city. There’s a retention-rate/turnover issue for sworn officers in Ormond Beach. I have personally spoken with several frontline officers. They’re not wanting a new police station; they’re wanting to reduce turnover by having salaries and benefits that are comparable to other county and local city jurisdictions. We must do better
for our police officers and our city and put salary dollars into their pockets and not construction dollars into developers pockets.

There he goes again – with a small fortune already paid to a consultant, our city’s mayor is pushing the City Commission to move ahead with plans to relocate the police station from its central location on West Granada Boulevard. Relocation of our police station building would not only be a disservice to our city’s beachside and center-city residents, it would present a logistical problem for our police officers. On a ride-around with an officer, I learned that our city’s police officers at the end of shift have to refuel their police cars, themselves, at the city’s Public Works facility on Orchard Avenue.

There he goes again – regarding the costs. As reported, the projected costs for a new “combined use” building would be $34.9 million; while fixing the existing building would cost $500,000. That’s not “new math” that’s fiscally irresponsible, but maybe not to developers anxious to acquire the existing police department property on Granada for further commercial development.

There he goes again – with no public mandate for the move. Citizens have been told the 20-year-old building was obsolete and required a new air conditioning system. Citizens were also told the current police station site was flood-prone and unsuitable as a command center during weather emergencies. Well, not too long ago the City Commission approved construction of a gas station with underground gas storage on Granada in this same floodplain. And, the city once owned a converted RV mobile command center; what ever happened to that?

It doesn’t make sense, but there he goes again – the current 20-year-old police station building is far from becoming obsolete, with a state-of-the-art indoor firing range and extra space that became available when the city eliminated the dispatch center and outsourced to Volusia County to provide that service. The current police building site has never flooded and all city buildings require regular upgrades of their HVC systems.

Some months ago, in a radio interview, a city commissioner revealed a more probable reason for the police station relocation proposal when he touted the current site as a great opportunity for commercial development that would enhance the downtown.

The police station generates almost zero traffic but a commercial center so close to U.S. 1 would add greatly to traffic at one of the most problematic intersections in the county. It seems clear that our mayor and City Commission continues to divert citizens’ tax dollars to advance the agendas of commercial interests.

Moving the police station is a very costly, bad idea.

Rob Bridger

Ormond Beach

Editor's note: Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington was given a chance to respond. 

Partington: 

There have been many quotes in recent times that say the best community policing is about collaboration, a partnership between the police officers and the citizens they are sworn to protect. It is about listening and coming up with the best possible solution to neighborhood problems and finding out what best serves the community. We have all seen that positive policing makes a difference in our community. That’s Ormond Beach, that’s who we are. 

To imply that the intentions behind wanting to examine the need for a new facility for our officers has sinister implications is not only just wrong, it is insulting. This is not about developers interests and never has been. It is about the safety and quality of life of our police force and the future of their training and work space needs, which are still being assessed.

Ormond Beach continues to have the best of the best joining our police force, with starting salaries ranked at 3rd in the county. Our growing police and fire departments are first class and deserve an emergency operations facility that reflects that with the space to accommodate all of their needs. As a citizen who strongly believes in our police department and as a part of a commission that continues to focus budgeting dollars on public safety, it seems like something worth talking about. That’s Ormond Beach, that’s who we are.
 
I wouldn’t be doing my job as mayor to just dismiss a study that revealed: “The total cost of renovating existing facilities would be upwards of half-a-million dollars and still will not meet the needs of its personnel, nor will it meet FEMA standards for an EOC.” Due to lack of space at the current police station, the men and women of our police department currently sleep in camping-like conditions during an EOC activation, on small camp cots with limited space for the entirety of the storm. 
 
Having a proper facility to house our first responders when working overtime to keep our city safe, along with the added benefit of the additional training facility space to make sure our police force keeps thriving, seems like an idea worth discussing. 
 
I appreciate Mr. Bridger’s opinion as a citizen and have noted it accordingly with our plans for future public outreach about this facility. There are no final answers here set in stone, just a willingness to revisit a study to see what the best course of action for the future that makes sense for Ormond Beach. There will be workshops and public meetings and many opportunities for us all to come together and look at this from all angles and decide the best path forward.

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