HARTFORD —— The four-story, $77 million public safety complex on High Street was dedicated Wednesday, marking the opening of the new headquarters for city police, fire, emergency services and dispatch personnel.
City officials said they were eager to begin work at the facility, which is more centrally located than the department's previous headquarters at 50 Jennings Road.
The new complex boasts updated technology, more space and puts all public safety personnel together in one location.
"We have the ability to reach each other at a moment's notice," Fire Chief Edward Casares said Wednesday, standing in his new office — which features a treadmill at his desk. "We have easy access to each other and to other departments. It's just tremendous."
The complex consists of two buildings connected by pedestrian walkways. The first, slightly smaller building houses the fire marshal's office, fire administration offices, community risk reduction office and dispatch center. The new dispatch center brings police, fire and emergency services dispatch employees together in one room.
The second, larger building houses the police department — including the police chief's office, detective bureaus and patrol — as well as lockup, the emergency operations center, the CompStat room, the records division, a fitness center and a property room, among other things.
The sprawling brick facility also features a soaring entryway with tall windows, winding corridors and spacious break rooms.
The Hartford Shooting Task Force still operates out of the former Quark Middle School on Williams Street, though Police Chief James Rovella said Wednesday that it will soon move to a new, not-yet-determined location.
A standout in the High Street facility is the new emergency operations center, which was relocated from city hall. The center features rows of work stations that include data network connections, large television screens, an area for dispatch communications and a briefing room. The entire operations center supports teleconferencing, meaning everyone in the room would have the ability to participate in a conference call, said Andrew Jaffee, head of emergency services and telecommunication.
The complex also includes a vehicle evidence processing bay. Previously, police would take vehicles to the city's department of public works to process them for evidence, Jaffee said.
The complex will accommodate about 600 employees. Most have already moved into the new headquarters, officials said. The police department's patrols, booking division and property room, which contains evidence and other seized or found items, are expected to move to High Street by the end of the month.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and other politicians who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday applauded the facility's centralized location, saying it could spur more development in the neighborhood. The complex sits just north of the downtown, adjacent to I-84.
Murphy noted that many police departments are built on the outskirts of cities because it's more convenient.
"It's hard to put a facility this big … in the middle of a neighborhood," he said. "This building makes all of our work in this neighborhood going forward a little easier.
"It's an inspiration for the revitalization of neighborhoods. This allows us to have a lot of victories in the future."
The complex was paid for through a $40 million bond issue from 2000 and a $37 million bond issue in 2007.
City officials have said the project's total cost was reduced as a result of a $2.3 million federal grant. A separate $2.9 million federal grant enabled the city to upgrade some portions of the project.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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