The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Police dept. running out of room

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  • The Newton Police Department's evidence room is filled to capacity — every shelf packed with bags and envelopes, every inch of table space put to use, and more boxes stacked on the floor. There's barely enough space for officers to navigate through the room.
    Lieutenant Craig Dunlavy knows it's not ideal, but it's just one symptom of the space issues Newton PD is facing. Their aging facility has a variety of maintenance and storage needs.
    "We cannot effectively do our jobs based on our current facility," Dunlavy said. "... The problem's never going to go away. It's just going to continue from year to year."
    The facility — which is shared with the Harvey County Sheriff's Office and 9-1-1 Communications Center — dates back to the early 1970s. It was remodeled in the late 1990s, converted from its former use as city hall and municipal court. At the time, Newton PD had fewer detectives and patrol staff, but the facility is no longer large enough to provide the needed space for offices, storage and evidence.
    "We currently have outgrown the space," Chief Jim Daily said.
    Lieutenant Scott Powell lists other issues with the building: falling ceiling tiles, and snow and rain coming through the windows. The furniture is broken; the heating and cooling system is poor; and the carpet is stained and has to be patched together with tape. Deputy Chief Eric Murphy said the building also has ADA issues.
    Dunlavy said when processing cases, it is difficult for officers to interview more than one person simultaneously. The interview rooms are not sound proof, so a victim on one side of the wall could be heard by an offender on the other, or offenders could talk to each other through the wall. Officers have had to resort to using other facilities for interviews, or even their cars.
    Newton PD has asked city commissioners to consider a $750,000 to $1 million remodeling project in 2015, which could buy the department some time. However, Dunlavy said the renovations will utilize the same footprint, just a different configuration.
    "It's a short-term fix for a long-term problem," Dunlavy said. "We're not gaining any space."
    Daily sees the best solution as adding a second story to the building, which would add about 10,000 square feet. Another station, south of the railroad tracks, also likely will be needed in the future as Newton grows. The department needs more personnel as well to cover the city, and they plan to phase in more positions over the next several years.
    "We keep growing, we keep expanding," Daily said of Newton.
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