New law enforcement facility features ballistic walls, soundproof insulation and other cool features
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — What last summer was a skeleton of concrete, steel and plowed-up earth has emerged from a heavy winter as what will be the new combined law enforcement facility with a range of specialized features.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department and Routt County Sheriff’s Office should move into the building mid-June, and it will open to the public June 24. After more than a year of construction and a few setbacks, Alan Lind, the city’s director of general services, has good news about the $19.3 million facility.
“We feel pretty strongly that we will be at or below budget,” he said, though he was wary to celebrate too early.
Construction is about a month behind what was originally expected, primarily because of the plentiful snowfall this winter and continuing precipitation.
Nevertheless, Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen took this reporter on a tour of the facility May 10, amid a commotion of drills and saws working away at the interior.
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Below are some of the highlights of that tour.
Outside the building
Concrete and steel at the building’s foundation, plus the brick exterior, has made the law enforcement facility an almost impenetrable fortress.
“You can almost hit it with a tank and not budge it,” Christensen said.
Such strength is necessary for a building that helps to keep the community safe — where emergency phone calls are fielded and officers and deputies are dispatched to crime scenes.
“This is a building that has to run even when a natural disaster hits,” Christensen said. “That and a lot of snow.”
The primary space for public access is the facility’s front lobby, and a lot of consideration went into keeping people safe during potential attacks.
Ballistic walls surround the lobby, fortified with gold plating to prevent bullets from piercing them. Bulletproof glass protects employees working the front desk.
“We couldn’t find a round that could go through all that,” Christensen said.
Residents can even access a separate safe room if an attacker is chasing them.
Christensen also wants the lobby to be a welcoming environment. The Police Department conducted a survey in 2017 and found that more than 1,000 people visited the current police building each month during open hours. He hopes people will feel encouraged to visit, even if they aren’t coming with a criminal concern.
In that respect, large windows offer plenty of natural light. An adjacent community room will be open for local groups to meet and hold conferences or trainings.
For the most part, the public will not have access to the secure section of the building unless they end up in one of the two interrogation rooms on the second floor.
If they do make an unfortunate visit, they may notice how any sound in those rooms seems to get sucked into the walls like a black hole. That is because a thick layer of soundproof insulation surrounds the walls, making it so people in one room cannot overhear a conversation in the other.
“They are essentially recording rooms on steroids,” Christensen said.
The project is a collaboration between the city, which foots about 60% of the construction bill, and the county, which is paying the remaining 40%. A $1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs helped lower the overall costs to both parties.
By combining the two departments, city officials project saving about $2 million by not building two separate facilities with duplicate spaces.
As Christensen explained, it is uncommon for a sheriff’s office and police department to share the same building, much less almost all of the spaces within. That includes things like interrogation rooms, a workout area and vehicle garage.
His office will even be within shouting distance of Sheriff Garrett Wiggins.
So far, the two have been seen eye-to-eye on most of the construction and design decisions.
“The sheriff and I probably agreed about 99.99% of the time,” Christensen said.
The public will have a chance to see some the above features — without undergoing police interrogation — during a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for July 19.
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