A building that has been vacant for over a year in Leon will soon have a new purpose; one that will contribute to the safety of the entire community.
At Monday night’s city council meeting the Leon City Commission discussed a deal with the Bluestem School District that will provide space for a new police department.
“We have been looking for something like this for a while,” said Shelly Martin, Leon City Commission member. “This space is six-times bigger than the area currently used for police and court business.”
The building Martin in referring to is the old Bluestem School District central office building near High and Olive in Leon.
Martin says the main issue is safety. Right now the space used for court hearings is an 8 foot by 9 foot conference room. People wait in the city library to see the judge, with little to no security, then sit at a folding table, just arms-length from the judge, for their court hearing.
“We have a metal detector wand, but no space to really use it,” said Chief Johnny Jones, Leon Police Department. “It’s not safe for the community, for the court personnel, or for us either.”
Jones, who has led the department since 1996, says he sees this as a great opportunity for his small department that consists of three part-time officers and nine reserve officers.
“We work out of a very small office attached to the library,” said Jones. “We often sit at library tables to write our reports and we have no room for training.”
The new building will have three offices plus a room for court. Jones says the courtroom will also be used for officer training and meetings when court isn’t in session.
“Having more space will also make us more accessible to the community we are serving,” said Jones.
The agreement will be discussed again at the next city commission meeting since not all commission members were present on Monday night. Martin is confident that this is a ‘done deal,’ but says the city isn’t ready to disclose the details of the agreement with the school district yet. She does say it involves a five year, renewable lease option and calls it a win-win situation for both the city and the district.
“Vacant buildings attract a number of problems including vandalism,” said Martin. “The school district is offering us a very good deal that will help our police department better serve the community.”