Nearly halfway to finish line

Published 6:13 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The new $6.5 million, 32,000 square feet law enforcement complex in Niles is well on its way toward completion.
However, Chief Ric Huff, Niles City Police Department said it's not expected to be ready for operational use until the first week of October.
When construction ends, the new building, which is located at 1600 Silverbrook, becomes the new shared home for the Niles City Police, the Niles Township Police and Michigan State Police Post 53.
In addition, the Berrien County Sheriff's Department will have a substation at the new building, but its main offices will remain at the South County Courthouse in Niles.
Huff said construction workers from St. Joseph-based Pearson Construction have been working n the building since early summer last year.
He said the new building, which is a pilot project funded by the State of Michigan, is unique because the different police agencies will not only be in the same building, but actually share several of the building's rooms.
Huff said four police agencies gathered under one roof will hopefully aid communication between the agencies, leading to an increased efficiency in their law enforcement work.
Although never tested before, at least to Huff's knowledge, he has high hopes for the new station -- and the new concept .
Huff gave as an example of several major investigations that have been undertaken in the area over the last few years.
The new building, however, apart from bringing all the agencies under one roof and making communication between the agencies easier, will also be a giant step forward in terms of the technology and facilities available to the police.
At the Niles City Police's current facilities on Third and Broadway streets, which were built in 1936, operate with an inadequate electrical system and the facility can't properly handle the needs of the dispatch center, Huff said.
Huff said the current police station also has no air conditioning system, which makes the building almost unbearably hot during summer weather.
One of the more important features with the new police station, however is that police will be able to lodge both juveniles and male and female prisoners at the same time because the jail cells are divided into groups.
The new police station will also have multi-use community rooms, Huff said.
Although the state is funding the pilot project, the police agencies themselves will have to bear much of the building maintenance costs.
"Maintenance costs will be shared by all agencies in the building based on the percentage of use in the building," Huff said.
Niles' share of that cost is 61 percent.