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Arroyo Grande Police are feeling the squeeze down at the station

Arroyo Grande Police department is in need of more space. Arroyo Grande Police Sgt. Jeff Souza in the very cramped room that handles the 911 calls.   photo Jayson Mellom 2-12-10
Arroyo Grande Police department is in need of more space. Arroyo Grande Police Sgt. Jeff Souza in the very cramped room that handles the 911 calls. photo Jayson Mellom 2-12-10 The Tribune

The Arroyo Grande Police Department outgrew its headquarters long ago.

Nearly every available spot in the building at 200 North Halcyon Road is being used as storage space — even the police chief’s bathroom, which is filled with uniforms and equipment, including replacement parts for traffic radars.

Answering equipment for 911 calls has been squeezed into a closet with an air conditioning unit on the wall to keep it cool.

Three full-time detectives work out of a 1,440-square-foot FEMA trailer the department acquired from the federal government for free in 2003.

And when it storms, water leaks into the walls and under the floor of the training/briefing room.

“I always joke during the rains that I feel like a captain of a submarine,” Chief Steven Annibali said.

Police are now one step closer to having a new station. The City Council last week voted unanimously to put a bond measure on the June 8 ballot. The measure would raise $6 million to fund construction of the new police station by refinancing bonds for a 30-year term that were approved by voters in 2003 to build the city’s fire station.

The funding is contingent on financing the bonds through a low-interest U.S. Department of Agriculture loan. A preliminary application has been submitted to the USDA and approved, according to city officials.

The proposed 14,468-square-foot building would be a significant upgrade from the current 8,151-square-foot department, which includes the FEMA trailer.

It would allow the department to upgrade its evidence and equipment storage, detective offices, dispatch center and emergency operations center, which would coordinate citywide response in the event of a disaster.

It would also give the department’s 36 full-time and 20 part-time staff a little more breathing room. The current building, acquired from a phone company in 1973 and expanded in 1989, started by housing 12 full-time and six part-time staff.

“We have a little window right now ... to get this done,” Annibali said. “We want to put people to work and build this as fast as we can.”

At its next meeting, the council is expected to consider approval of a permit to build the new station at West Branch Street and Rodeo Drive, next to St. Patrick’s School. The city last year came to an agreement with the county that allowed it to acquire the county-owned parcel, Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara said.

City officials expect to sell the current police station building for $1.5 million, though the city might need to borrow money from an internal fund to cover construction costs until the building is sold.

However, Ferrara said, the plan is set up so that Arroyo Grande residents won’t see an increase in their taxes.

“As a result of extending those (fire station) bonds farther out, we can cover the costs of the new police facility,” he said. “The manner in which we put together a creative financing strategy doesn’t increase property taxes or any other taxes which are already in place.”

Cynthia Lambert covers South County for The Tribune. She can be reached at 781-7929. Stay up to date on Twitter by following @SouthCountyBeat.

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