PALMETTO -- A preliminary space assessment for the Palmetto Police Department shows a need for a larger facility.
The Palmetto City Council also discussed Monday the need to protect the building from a Category 5 hurricane. City officials said they want to ensure the facility will address community needs well into the future.
During the presentation and ensuing conversation, the current one-story, 13,500-square-foot facility went from a proposed two-story, 16,000-square-foot facility to a three-story, 18,000-square-foot building.
David Bishop, vice president of Urgate & Associates Inc. of Palmetto, made the presentation. Bishop said the existing police department building is "undersized, but not by a lot."
The study took into account space needed for all 61 existing employees, including offices and meeting rooms. It also considered an evidence room, fitness center, vehicle service area, dispatch center and storage.
Bishop said the study also used a projected five-year growth in employees, which Police Chief Rick Wells said would be around six or seven new patrol officers.
Bishop said he was initially going to suggest a two-story, 16,000-square-foot building, which is an 18 percent size increase.
"It sounds like a lot but it's not," said Bishop.
For the new facility to withstand a Category 5 storm, Bishop said there is no high ground in Palmetto adequate to deal with potential storm surge created by such intensity.
The average high ground above sea level in Palmetto is 13 feet. Bishop said 20 feet is necessary to save a ground floor from a Category 5 storm, which spurred the three-story proposal.
The preliminary design features a first-floor community room that can hold up to 125 people while essential emergency personnel would be stationed on the next two floors, essentially ensuring police work could continue even during a catastrophic flood.
Bishop said he didn't want to use the term "sacrificing the ground floor," but acknowledged the second and third floors would house the heart of the police station.
The dispatch center, evidence room and crime investigation unit would be on the second floor while administrative offices would be on the third floor.
Palmetto patrol officers, who do not require office space but need a meeting room, would work out of the first floor.
Ward 1 Commissioner Charles Smith said the design doesn't look far enough ahead.
"I think if you are going to build a new police department, you should build one for the next 30 to 40 years," said Smith. "I don't think looking at possibly six new employees in five years is going to have the right impact. I think you should look further out and look at 100 total employees."
Smith said the biggest mistake government makes is building too small or too big.
Ward 2 Commissioner Tambra Varnadore asked if parking had been taken into consideration and Bishop estimated the new building would need about 50 spaces.
"It will be a main emphasis of site selection," she said.
Other suggestions included adding dog kennels to house police canines during a storm and increasing the vehicle service area to accommodate growth. Ward 3 Commissioner Brian Williams said it is likely most of the police department's future growth will involve patrol officers and cars.
There is no cost estimate yet. The presentation was to give commissioners an idea of police department building needs so they could begin to consider a site.
Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said: "We don't want to price it out of what we can afford, but I think we all agree that there is a need to move forward."
A motion to draft a request for proposals passed unanimously.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.