Fairfield Twp. opens newly expanded, remodeled police station

Fairfield Twp. officials celebrated on Sept. 8, 2021, the completion of the newly remodeled and expanded Fairfield Twp. Police Department headquarters. The project cost the township $1.8 million. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Caption
Fairfield Twp. officials celebrated on Sept. 8, 2021, the completion of the newly remodeled and expanded Fairfield Twp. Police Department headquarters. The project cost the township $1.8 million. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

‘It’s a different police department in many ways,’ chief says after $1.85M upgrade.

When Fairfield Twp. Trustee Joe McAbee was first elected as a trustee in 1995, the township’s police department consisted of a few officers and a small room in the administrative offices.

A few years later, in 2002, the police department, which was still a mostly part-time agency, moved into a brand new 3,500-square-foot station on Vonnie Vail Court. The department quickly outgrew the building.

Before construction started on a $1.85 million expansion and renovation project last fall, every square inch was used, and some areas served dual purposes.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said.

Fairfield Twp. officials celebrated on Sept. 8, 2021, the completion of the newly remodeled and expanded Fairfield Twp. Police Department headquarters. The project cost the township $1.8 million. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Caption
Fairfield Twp. officials celebrated on Sept. 8, 2021, the completion of the newly remodeled and expanded Fairfield Twp. Police Department headquarters. The project cost the township $1.8 million. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

The building was so bad in need of an upgrade, Police Chief Robert Chabali said he’s been “excited when I open up a closet” in the remodeled and renovated building because there’s so much more space.

“It’s a different police department, in many ways,” the chief said. “Not just the physical aspect, not just the architecture, not just the addition and remodeling. We’ve changed everything to make it contemporary, and we’re still working on it. We’ve never stopped.”

When Chabali started in 2017, he wanted to change the department’s culture. Some of the more immediate changes included promoting two part-time clerks to full-time, installing in-vehicle cameras, upgrading uniform officers’ sidearms, and increasing the department’s authorized strength to 23. There are currently 20 sworn officers.

Most recently, he worked with the trustees to have officers equipped with body cameras. But the building was a big key to changing the culture, he said.

But Chabali knew the station needed to be expanded when he started. During one inspection of the building, the female officers’ locker room had one of its restroom areas double as a space to dry out bloodied evidence. The remodeling came with some new equipment, including a drying bin that dries out evidence in order to preserve it.

The police department remodeling and expansion included doubling the station’s size, as well as creating new offices for supervisors, a new lobby, an improved records room, conference room, expanded secured property room, and a new workout/training room.

While the newly expanded department’s size and look are a noticeable change, he said it’s really evident by the floor. In fact, Chabali said, “The floor says it all.” Before the remodeling, the department’s carpeted floor had, in some areas, “bare wood floors,” and the chief said, “It’s just not a place for people to work. There are worse (physical) places to work, and I get that. We’re very blessed here.”

Fairfield Twp. vehicle MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Caption
Fairfield Twp. vehicle MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Fairfield Twp. Trustee Shannon Hartkemeyer said the station gives “a professional work environment,” and it “adds to the professionalism to the staff because they want to come in (to work).”

“When they have an upgraded, elevated environment, they want to be upgraded and elevated (in their performance), too,” she said. “We’re built for the future.”