Asked to come up with an anecdote for the magnitude of the Pittsburg Police Department’s move into the new Public Safety Center, Police Chief Mendy Hulvey laughed.


 

Asked to come up with an anecdote for the magnitude of the Pittsburg Police Department’s move into the new Public Safety Center, Police Chief Mendy Hulvey laughed.

After all, the department had just left its cramped quarters with so many problems, Hulvey once said nobody could remember them all in just a few sentences.

"It's almost like night and day," Hulvey said. "It's like coming out of the Dark Ages into the light."

"That facility was so dark and dank," Hulvey said. "The new one, it's so ... full of life. That's really the best way to describe it."

Both Pittsburg's new Fire Station No. 1 and its Public Safety Center found new life on Monday, as it marked the opening of both facilities for police and firefighters.

"I thought I would retire at the other station," said Pittsburg Fire Chief Don Elmer. "It feels good. It's been a long-awaited change."

Firefighters spent their first night at their new homes on West Fourth Street near the bypass Monday night, at the same time police settled down for their start in the Public Safety Center on Third and Pine streets.

Monday’s work meant that phones to both sites were down as workers labored to install the new 911 and phone systems. While they were down, all calls were forwarded to Crawford County Sheriff’s dispatch.

"We're hoping that the community will remain patient," Hulvey said. "We're still working out the kinks with the new technology. It will take us a little while to get used to our new surroundings. We'll be up and running soon."

Community members made the new facilities possible.

Both chiefs spent time before the election making their cases to the voters, and both had plenty of ammunition. The Pittsburg Police Department’s old office was a cramped steam plant converted over in the 1960s. At the same time, the Pittsburg Fire Department had to purchase fire engines based on the engine’s height, rather than the city’s need. One of the engines had to move the bucket lower just to fit, creating a barrier blocking the driver’s vision.

“It was like a funny movie in there,” Elmer said. “You would open up one door and you’d hit one truck and you’d open up another one and hit another truck. It was tight.”

The voters listened — they passed a bond issue by a close to 3-1 margin, levying a half-cent sales tax for the improvements in August 2006. The city then narrowed down design plans before starting on construction in the fall of 2007.

The moves aren’t totally complete — both Elmer and Hulvey said there was work still to be done.

“Obviously, again, this is the first time our police department has ever been in a facility designed for our needs,” Hulvey said. “It has modern technology and features in this facility that can only enhance our day-to-day efficiency.” 

At the same time, Elmer said there was still an element of nostalgia about the old buildings.

“That’s doesn’t mean that we would trade back. Everybody’s excited to be here,” Elmer said. “I just want to say thanks to the citizens of Pittsburg, for the approval of our nice new facility.

“It should serve us here for many years to come.”

 

Kevin Flaherty can be reached at kevin.flaherty@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 Ext. 134.