The Doral Police Department will soon have a permanent location.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, the Doral City Council agreed to convert the city’s new public works facility, which has sat virtually empty since being built last year, into a shared police and public works compound.
Doral spent more than $9 million to buy the land and construct the public works facility at 6100 NW 99th Ave. It boasts a two-story, nearly 14,000-square-foot main building with an attached storage area of about 7,000 square feet with several loading docks.
The compound, which sits on five acres of land, also features an enclosed car wash and another storage area that’s about 5,000 square feet with bay areas.
But the property is currently only being used for storage by a handful of public works field workers who drop off and pick up equipment during the day.
Joe Carollo, who took over as city manager last month, questioned why the city of 45,700 residents built a public works facility in the first place.
“In what was not the best thought out course of action by the City of Doral,” Carollo said, “we have turned this now into a win-win situation for Doral. The city can save million of dollars and have a police station that can be used in just a few months.”
When it was built as a public works facility, the plan was for the site to be used for storage and for a mechanic and an assistant to work out of. But those positions weren’t budgeted.
“Think about this: You have 20 employees in public works and you have 138 in the police department,” Carollo said. “Where is the priority? It should have been police.”
The Doral Police Department has been leasing office space in downtown Doral for about $200,000 a year. But that contract is set to expire in August 2014 and the leased building is scheduled for demolition.
The city’s current plan is to transform the 14,000-square-foot public works building into the police department.
The 5,000-square-foot storage area would be slated for public works.
“The positive side is we basically have the bulk of the police station built and still have enough room in a separate building to have public works,” said Carollo.
The first phase of renovation will include a remodel of the upstairs portion of the building, which is currently being used for storage. That area will be tailored for the police department’s needs, according to Carollo.
The bottom floor, which already has space for a reception area, dining areas and other features, will also be improved.
The city council approved spending $445,000 for phase one of the renovation Wednesday night.
Carollo expects to come back to the council within the next few weeks to propose how much phase two will cost.
Meanwhile, the city is trying to figure out what it is going to do with a 10-acre property near the U.S. Southern Command that the state is leasing to Doral with the caveat the city build something police-related on it.
Carollo said he is currently looking into different ideas on what to do with the property, including converting it into a police substation, or a training area.
According to the agreement the state had with Doral, the city has until Aug. 18 to build on the site.
If the city doesn’t build by that time, it risks losing the property.
Council members aren’t happy about the prospect of losing the land.
“It would be a great concern if the city would actually lost that property because we didn’t move forward,” said Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz.