PALMETTO: Police Dept. okayed for new building

Published on: September 19, 2018

Construction of new Palmetto Police Department building set to move forward


Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler supervises a police force of 35 full-time officers, two part-time officers, and 15 staff employees, for a total of 52.

Just over a year ago, Hurricane Irma barreled its way through Florida.

Although Manatee County was spared from the heavy destruction storm forecasters predicted, the hurricane still left some places in the area with damage.

The damage Irma did to the Palmetto Police Department made it clear the City of Palmetto needed a new building for its police force sooner than later.

 “The north wind blew the 1986 seam out, and there was a lot of water damage to the records room,” said Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler.

Tyler was talking about the “seam” of caulking that was applied to the joint where the 1986 addition to the 1967 addition was made.

The Palmetto City Commission took action to begin the process of construction of a new police department building, and last month they approved the funds to begin the design and building of the new facility.

The original building was constructed in 1960 according to the Manatee County Appraiser’s Office.

Then with the growth of the city, two major additions were made in 1967 and 1986, with several minor annexes and renovations, mostly to the east and north of the original building.

Although the additions were constructed according to the standards of the time, the newer addition began to separate from the first addition, affecting the integrity of the roof structure.

Also, with each passing year, more damage, such as falling decorative fascia and cracks in the building blocks, began to occur.

The “seam” connecting the 1986 addition to the 1967 addition of the Palmetto Police Department was compromised during Hurricane Irma last year causing interior water damage in the records department. New white caulking of the “seam” can be seen just to the right of the awning over the front portico.

“We were talking about building a new police building when I was hired in,” said Tyler, who began his career as a police officer in Palmetto in 1995.

Through the years the department has made patches and fixes to get it through another year.

About three months ago the city hired Orlando-based Architects Design Group to do a spatial needs assessment, and the consultants gave a report to the commission last month ending with approval of a new building for the police department.

The new building will be on a portion of the former Palmetto Elementary School site of about eight and three-quarters acres between Eighth Street and 10th Avenue West and Seventh and Ninth streets west, which the city recently purchased from the Manatee County School District for $1.4 million.

The police department facility will be built on about three acres of the northeast corner of the property behind Poppi’s Place Too diner where the former North Campus of Manatee Technical College was located.

The spatial needs assessment process included officer and staff surveys and interviews, operations analysis, and equipment and technology requirements.

“They had the employees do a written survey and met with quite a few of the staff and asked what they would need in 10, 20, 30 years,” Tyler said.

Although the city is trying to keep up with repairs and renovations of the Palmetto Police Department building, the deterioration continues to happen, as can be seen on the fascia above the window.

“I feel they did a very comprehensive job,” he said. “They gave us an idea of what we will need.”

The report indicated that the department would need a building of about 22,500 square feet and both public and secured parking areas and a security buffer.

“Today there are evolving security needs for a police department building,” Tyler said, “including a buffer area.”

The chief said the department has little more than 13,000 square feet in the building at 1115 10th St. W. that needs replaced “and we’re pretty cramped.”

For example, the evidence room is where the old jail cells are located; the community meeting room has to double as an officer training room; the forensic department has to share space with other departments; and four detectives are squeezed into one office.

Tyler also pointed out the importance to separate the public from police officer activities for safety reasons.

“The new building will have rest rooms for detainees,” he said. 

In the present location, detainees have to be escorted to the public restrooms in the lobby; mixing police work with the public access areas.

“We make do, but it would be nice to have dedicated rooms (for each department),” Tyler said.

The Architects Design Group consultants recommended separate areas for records, evidence preparation, lockers, processing, communications, armory, training, interview rooms, detectives and investigations, and tactical vehicle storage.

Roof leaks and crumbling walls have created the need to replumb one of the exit doors of the Palmetto Police Department building on a regular basis according to Chief of Police Scott Tyler.

“We’re not looking for the Taj Mahal,” said Tyler, who became chief in 2015, “but we’re just looking for a functional building to serve the community.”

City Clerk Jim Freeman said the consultants gave an estimated cost of about $8.2 million for a new police department building, not including the purchase of the land.

That total includes about $7 million for construction, site development and an energy plant; plus about $700,000 for consultant, engineering and design fees; and another $600,000-plus for furniture, fixtures, equipment and moving expenses..

Another $640,000 for about four acres of the old elementary school property needed for the new facility would be added to the total cost, Freeman said.

That figure was calculated by dividing the total price of $1.4 million the city paid by the eight and three-quarters acres of the whole parcel, and multiplying the quotient of $160,000 by a possible four acres needed for the new facility.

The city commission dedicated $6 million from the sales tax money the citizens approved in November 2016 for construction of the new police department building, leaving about a $2.5 million deficit in the estimated costs.

“The plan is to make that up through value engineering, or looking at the design to save money,” Freeman said. “Also, through the selling of the property where the police department is now located and the rest of the former Palmetto Elementary School property.

“A combination of all those things will get us there,” he said.

Tyler said he wanted the public to know the city can use the new police department building as a cornerstone for redevelopment on 10th Avenue West.

The decorative fascia on the east side of the Palmetto Police Department building at 1115 10th St. W. broke away from the exterior wall and crashed to the ground.

“People are concerned about taking the property off of the tax roll, but the police department building will only be about four acres in the northeast corner behind Poppi’s of the nine-acre parcel,” he said.

For the chief, getting into a new building could not be soon enough.

“We’re looking at three years before being able to move into the new building,” Tyler said. “I’m looking forward to the new building and will be proud to be part of the process.”

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said the community, as a whole, also was very excited about having a new police department building.

“It’s going to be exciting when we have the groundbreaking (for construction) and the ribbon-cutting and then to move in,” Groover Bryant said.