City breaks ground on future Idaho Falls Police Complex - East Idaho News
Idaho Falls

City breaks ground on future Idaho Falls Police Complex

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IDAHO FALLS – City officials and members of the Idaho Falls Police Department broke ground on the future police complex at 701 Northgate Mile Thursday morning.

The 8-acre parcel where the 60,000-square-foot building will be built is the site of the old stockyards. Construction will get underway once the old auction house is torn down. Idaho Falls Police Department spokeswoman Jessica Clements tells it will take between 18 months and two years to complete, but it could take longer due to supply chain shortages.

“The facility will be a place for the police department to engage with and best serve the community,” according to a description of the project in a flier for the groundbreaking. “It will include components such as training rooms, evidence storage, a forensic lab, workspace for officers and investigators, K-9 kennels and climate-controlled SWAT/specialty vehicle and equipment storage.”

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Mayor Rebecca Casper spoke at the groundbreaking. She said there were many conversations about including the word “community” in the name of the complex because they want it to be a place the community utilizes. To avoid confusion, they ultimately decided to call it the Idaho Falls Police Complex, but Casper emphasized it will be a place “that will serve the entire community.”

“There will be a community room available for people to come to interact with officers, have a meeting or perhaps to take a scout troop there to learn about policing. It will be a welcoming facility in addition to being a place where some heavy-duty work takes place,” Casper said.

police complex rendering
An artistic rendering of what the Idaho Falls Police Complex will look like. | Courtesy Idaho Falls Police Department

Casper referred to the groundbreaking as a “historic event.” The department has never operated out of one building in its 127-year history.

The main part of the current station occupies 5,670 square feet inside Bonneville County’s Law Enforcement building, which was built in the 1970s. The department has continued to borrow and lease additional space in other buildings over the years. In 2019, Johnson told that managing a police department across eight different buildings is not very efficient and is confusing for people trying to report a crime, get fingerprinted or give a witness statement.

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Police Chief Bryce Johnson kicked off the groundbreaking ceremony by noting that a new police complex has “been a long time coming.” The conversation began in the 1990s with former Idaho Falls Police Chief J. Kent Livsey. His successor, Steve Roos, continued the conversation by forming a citizens committee. The project gained momentum but ultimately came to a halt during the recession in 2008.

“There just wasn’t that opportunity with dollars being short like they were then with the city to feel like it could move forward with incurring the debt that comes with the building,” Casper explained at the groundbreaking.

Chief Mark McBride was sworn-in in 2013 and continued the work that his predecessors set in motion. Johnson came on board in 2017.

bryce johnson groundbreaking
Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson addressing the crowd during the groundbreaking ceremony. | Rett Nelson,

“We thought we needed some more input and guidance from the community before we moved forward. We convened a citizen committee again in 2018. Their job was to study the need for a facility,” Casper said.

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The city purchased the property on Northgate Mile in 2019 and officially announced it would be the site for the new police complex. There were multiple reasons why this particular spot was selected. Clements says one of the reasons is because it’s centrally located in a part of town where many crimes occur. It was also big enough to support the size of a facility they needed and cost significantly less than other sites they were considering.

They also like the idea of revitalizing and “sprucing up” a vacant lot in a high-traffic area, which they hope will encourage development on that end of town.

“It is not hard to be excited about this facility, not only because of the service to the community but also because it comes without any additional property tax burden to city residents. This project is being funded by certificates of participation. The investors who bought those certificates are being repaid directly from the city’s budget each year,” Casper told those in attendance.

The payment is around $2 million annually and is taken out of property taxes the city collects.

Local architect firm NBW Architects partnered with Florida-based Architects Design Group in designing the project. Multiple engineering companies are also involved and Ormond Builders in Idaho Falls is the contractor.

Johnson expressed gratitude to the community for its attitude toward and support of law enforcement.

“The city of Idaho Falls and the people of Idaho Falls are some of the most unique folks in the world,” Johnson said. “There was a span of about a year where (officers) couldn’t go to a restaurant without having someone pay for their lunch … Those things don’t happen nearly that (often) in other communities so I express my gratitude to the community of Idaho Falls.”