Lake Norman & Mooresville

Huntersville to get new police station

At the Huntersville Police Department, time that could be used to solve crimes is often spent waiting for space in the building's lone interview room.

Chief Phil Potter says that one interview room in the 8,000-square-foot building, where 92 officers and employees work, just isn't enough.

"Weekly, there would be incidents involving the arrests of three to four violent criminals that would require our officers to sit the arrestees in chairs in hallways handcuffed until all could be ... processed," he said.

But those days will be just a memory for the police when they move into a new, 26,000-square-foot building in July.

Huntersville commissioners approved the purchase of a foreclosed former medical office building at 9630 Julian Clark Ave. in October.

According to the agreement, the town cannot take out a loan that exceeds $6 million. The town estimates it will cost $4.5 million to buy the building and adjacent land and about $1.3 million for interior upgrades and other costs.

The purchase of the land next to the new building would allow for an expansion later, said town management assistant Bobby Williams.

The department's current location worked well in 1997, when the town bought the current building. The department was much smaller then, and daily duties were different, said Potter.

But the landscape has changed dramatically.

The town grew by 728 percent between 1990 and 2000, roughly increasing from 3,000 to 24,700 resident. Then the town's population increased by 87 percent during the last decade, according to Census numbers.

With a population of 46,773, Huntersville is now North Carolina's 19th-largest municipality and the fastest-growing large municipality in the state, according to the 2010 Census.

In 1997, officials expected the building to last 30 years. But in the last decade, the department has grown from 55 to 82 sworn officers.

The effort to get a new building has hit some snags along the way. This June, the commissioners canceled a planned $16 million bond referendum to build a new police station on North Church Street.

"We've been behind the eight ball but due to the cost to actually build a new Police Department, we didn't feel like with the economy, we should spend that much money," said Commissioner Ron Julian.

Then Commissioner Sarah McAulay suggested the foreclosed medical building at The Park.

"The pieces of the puzzle fell into perfect place," said Julian. "This is going to meet their long-term needs. It's not a short-term answer. It's a great buy."

Potter said the new location, which was built in 2007, will likely support the department for at least the next seven years, with an opportunity to expand likely.

The new facility will easily have enough space for offices, a patrol roll-call room, arrest processing area, five to seven interview rooms, conference rooms, a specialized garage to bring suspects into the building safely (known as a Sally Port), evidence-processing areas and more than 100 parking spaces, said Potter.

Town officials expect the department to relocate by July 1,which Potter noted is two to three years ahead of the time it would have taken to build a new facility.

Williams said that while town staff are "tossing around some ideas," for what to do with the old building, it will be the board of commissioners that ultimately decides.