Dust and noise still form the background for Oxford’s police department operations, but the move into new space began three weeks ago.
Now a more modern, well-lit and better-functioning facility is evolving.
Department operations were confined to the basement of the former Municipal Building since last summer when the construction work began but first- and second-floor office spaces are now taking shape as the basement, stairwell and elevator work proceeds.
“It’s surprising how quickly it can come together once you get started,” Police Chief John Jones said. “It’s great to be up here. It just gives you a greater sense of productivity.”
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Once the top two floors were ready for occupancy, office furniture had to be delivered and installed. Not all the rooms are completely ready to use but the scene has shifted upstairs and it’s a welcome change for the officers, administration and staff.
There is finish work still to complete, including painting some walls and window sill installations. Several of the new rooms are finished but serving as storage for unassembled furniture, but Jones said that should not take too long.
Several boxes of things for his office just been taken out and put in place that morning.
“My furniture was the last to arrive,” he said, adding it got there Feb. 27.
“We moved the first floor first, with dispatch, patrol and the sergeants. They moved in the week of Feb. 12,” he said. “We moved the public (area) to the front of the building. It’s very much a fluid process.”
Jones emphasized the new address for the police department is 101 E. High St. with the entrance off High Street in the front of the building. The former entrance was off South Poplar Street.
Windows just inside the door are where the public will have first contact with the department, the dispatch area. An adjacent window is in a separate area “soft entry” area for the records department, complete with a table for citizens to write statements or privately meet with officers.
Inside the dispatch/records area are large security monitors on which various areas of the building can be viewed.
The first floor also has a large training room, still filled with boxes of unassembled furniture, but the chief looks forward to being able to use it for training purposes as well as shift roll call.
The department’s squad room will also be on the first floor.
The chief’s office will be on the second floor, as well as space for the department’s lieutenants and detectives. A major case room is also up there where evidence and information can be spread out and reviewed.
The department’s conference room will seat 14 around a long table, and Jones said it could be used for meetings without having to go off-site.
There are also two interview rooms — one for interrogations, but the other is considered a soft interview room where crime victims can feel more comfortable.
With work currently going on in the basement area, the jail cells cannot be used.
“We have no access to the jail. We hope by spring break, we can use it,” Jones said.
Access to that area will still be possible from the alley, but the construction of two garage bays will allow officers to bring prisoners into the jail after driving inside a secure area.
Window shapes and the cupola on the roof have been retained to maintain the historical integrity of the building which was a concern of the Historic and Architectural Preservation Commission.
The new area has a lot of natural light.
“The natural lighting we have not had in the basement. Having windows, natural light and a view is different,” he said. “It’s a great workspace, the best in my time here and generations before me.”
The scheduled completion date is June 1.
“This was something they looked forward to in 2008. It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I look forward to summer when we are finished and can invite the public in.”