Story and photos by Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
Two years ago, Sanibel City Council began the process of studying an expansion of the police department facilities and held a workshop this week detailing the status.
The original plan was for building an addition to the police department wing of the Sanibel City Hall Complex. Initially it was determined the department would be relocated during a rehab and expansion of the current space at city hall.
Moving the police department to the former Sanibel Captiva Community Bank building on Library Way, purchased by the city in December 2019 to be the new Center4Life, was studied. And moving the natural resources and IT departments to the former bank building and allowing the police to occupy their space at city hall was also a possibility.
But in May, Council instructed city staff to stop the study of using the former bank building and consider other options. Hired by the city, ADG Architecture has drawn up plans for two potential structures to house the police.
One option would be a new building to the west of city hall. The building would not be attached but separated by a driveway. Another option would be a new building across Dunlop Road next to the recycling center.
In either case, a new building would double the current space from around 5,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet of needed space.
At the community workshop this week, Police Chief Bill Dalton said we should think of this “not as cost, but as an investment.”
When the city was incorporated 40 years ago, there were four officers patrolling during the daytime with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office covering nights and weekend.
The department now has 25 sworn officers and civilian employees.
With overcrowding, they are using outside trailers for the traffic enforcement staff and the female locker-room.
Fire Chief Bill Briscoe said after studying the two proposals, the first, next to city hall, had numerous problems. The ability to get fire trucks near the building in time of emergency was a great concern.
Chief Briscoe pointed out that if the building proposed next to city hall were ever connected to the existing city hall, major upgrades in sprinklers and fire safety would be required at great cost.
The proposed building next to the recycling center and across Dunlop Road from City Hall (the area shown in the above SC video) could be a secure property and include training facilities.
Both new building options were projected at around $7 million in cost and Acting City Manager/Finance Director Steve Chaipel went through several options for funding.
He also pointed out that city hall is “compressed for space” and with a new police building, current city departments could make good use of the vacated police space.
City Council has yet to make any final decisions.