Palmetto getting closer to seeing what future police department building will look like

Palmetto Police building is literally crumbling. Take a tour.

Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler takes a tour through the crumbling building that has housed the police department since 1960. The city is looking at options for a replacement.
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Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler takes a tour through the crumbling building that has housed the police department since 1960. The city is looking at options for a replacement.

The public and Palmetto city officials could soon see several possibilities of a design for the planned Palmetto Police Department building.

Chief Scott Tyler said they have a vision. They’ve considered how policing may change in the years to come and what they may need for that, such as IT space and possibly more in-house forensics.

“We’re not looking at probably over 10, 20, 30 years, the police department growing that much. We’re never going to be a 100-person police department. But we are looking for spaces for unique police functions. Maybe drones,” Tyler said.

About a year and a half ago, the department did a spacial needs assessment to help them determine what the needs will be immediately as well as in years from now, Tyler said.

They’ve asked architects to begin designs for the new building and bring three concepts for the July 24 meeting.

Logical work flow and like functions being designed together and other efficiencies are on Tyler’s list of desired designs. But he also wants the building to be community-policing centered.

Tyler hopes it will have a lobby area with a separate room large enough to hold public meetings or other events.

“Quite a bit of attention is going to be dedicated to how do we invite the public into the space, to use the space, and still maintain that security and that functionality,” Tyler said.

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City commissioners previously allocated $6 million for the new building project.

At Monday’s city commission workshop, city clerk Jim Freeman said he would not be surprised if that number increases, mostly due to the cost of supplies.

Commissioner Harold Smith raised concerns over the project’s ultimate bottom line. Smith said he wanted a list of how much things would cost before they start building. He also asked that the city staff work with other cities that have recently built police stations for planning.

Also voicing interest for the city to work with others who have built similar structures was Commissioner Tamara Cornwell. She noted the importance of making sure the building could withstand Florida’s weather.

Commissioner Brian Williams said he envisioned the $6 million as being for the structure itself and not the furnishings.

Commissioner Tambra Varnadore said she thought they had an understanding of what the police needed for the building thanks to the needs assessment, but believed they now sought input on what the building itself should look like.

Until they know that, Varnadore said, they can’t make any more decisions.

Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant agreed with Varnadore, saying that though government can move slowly, she feels they have moved quickly through this process.

“If it takes a little longer to do it the right way and by the law we will always do that,” Groover Bryant said. “We’ve got to have a plan before we get a price.”

Smith maintained that a plan should be compiled before the city spends the money.

Most of the expenses for the project will be for furnishings and electronics, as well as some specialty equipment such as special glass in interview rooms, dispatch equipment and cameras, Mohammed Rayan, deputy director of public works, said.

The city paid Manatee County School District $1.4 million for an 8-acre space after commissioners voted in August to build the new police department at the site of the former Palmetto Elementary School, off Seventh Street West.

New police station file photo.JPG
The former site of Palmetto Elementary School offers everything the city needs to build a new police station, but is not a high-crime area to fulfill goals of reducing crime. The city has another, more expensive option, that would do so, but will leave it to the public decide. File photo by Tiffany Tompkins Bradenton Herald

In addition to the July 24 city commission meeting, the public will have two other chances to see the concept designs and offer feedback. The concepts will be available for public viewing on July 30 and 31.

But coming to fruition sooner than a new building is the new boat purchased for the police department last week.

Commissioners approved in a May 6 meeting a motion to authorize Groover Bryant to sign the order to purchase the boat for no more than $74,000.

The money for the purchase will come from a combination of the half-cent sales tax, impact fees, and forfeiture funds.

The purchase come after Manatee County commissioners previously denied Palmetto police’s request for funding for a boat.

Tyler said they ordered the 24-foot center console boat from Yellowfin, after they put out a bid. The police department will order the specific police equipment the boat needs and Yellowfin will install it, he explained.

They hope it will be ready by Dec. 1.

A couple of officers are in training now and Tyler hopes to have them ready to captain the boat in time for the numerous events that are hosted on the Manatee River starting December.

Palmetto is a city surrounded by the Manatee River, Terra Ceia and portions of Tampa Bay, it makes sense to have a boat, says Chief of Police Scott Tyler.