Thursday, June 17, 2004

Boone public-safety building ready

Facility dedicated Saturday has firing range, incinerator

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - Deputies drive to Indiana for firearms training. Detectives haul contraband to a foundry in Gallatin County to be burned. And the staff gathers at firehouses for meetings.

What: Dedication of Boone County public safety center
When: Ceremony is 10 a.m. Saturday, with a public tour afterward
Where: 3000 Conrad Lane
Boone County Sheriff Mike Helmig said that's all about to change with the dedication Saturday of the county's first public-safety center. He says the new building will save taxpayers money by providing everything a deputy needs under one roof and allow for better training.

The building - on a sprawling $26.5 million public safety campus - will eventually house the county's new jail and a fire training center. The 50,000-square-foot building features an indoor firing range, an incinerator and conference rooms large enough for the department's 150 employees.

"We now will be able to perform in-house what we have had to travel to get accomplished," said Helmig. "Our entire department is excited to have a facility that addresses the specific need of a law enforcement operation."

Helmig said the sheriff's office has for years been in need of additional space. A 1999 study by the Southern Police Institute in Louisville found the space available for law enforcement inadequate.

Criminal investigations was scattered in offices on three floors of the county building. Some detectives worked out of an abandoned courtroom. Tom Scheben, spokesman for the department, said there has never been a proper place to conduct interviews or organize lineups.

"The biggest thing is we finally have room," said Scheben, whose desk sits where several hallways intersect.

Boone County's population jumped nearly 50 percent during the 1990s to 86,000 residents in 2000, according to the U.S. Census. State officials built a new courthouse last year, and county officials hope to open the new jail in months.

"The new building has been a team effort between our office, the judge-executive and the county commissioners," Helmig said. "It shows there is a strong commitment to law enforcement in this community."

He said the new building will allow Boone County to host required classes for officers. Northern Kentucky law enforcement agencies send their officers to Richmond, Ky., or Louisville for training.

Boone County Emergency Management, now housed in rented office space, will also move into the new building. Officials said with Emergency Management now responsible for homeland security planning, it was urgent they have adequate space near the county's police operations.

"Law enforcement and emergency management are two of the most important basic services we provide to the citizens of the county," said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore.


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