The city finally made inroads Monday in the construction of the second building leaders have a hand in erecting since incorporation in 1994, breaking ground on a $2.3 million new police station for the city’s Police Department.

Police Chief Kevin Ambeau said the 8,577-square-foot facility has been part of his vision for the police force since he was elected 12 years ago.

The new building, which will sit on four acres of undeveloped land along La. 74, will include more than 30 rooms designed for evidence storage, dispatch offices, interview chambers, a sally port, fitness center and, most important, holding cells.

The chief said the new building will ease his department’s burden of having to travel from East Iberville to Plaquemine, via the Mississippi River Bridge, just to jail detainees for booking and bring them in for questioning.

“Most times, when we make an arrest in St. Gabriel, we have to travel across two parishes (East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge) to detain someone at the jail in Iberville Parish,” Ambeau said Monday morning at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new building.

“This building is going to make my guys’ jobs a lot easier with these holding cells.”

City officials said construction on the Hoffpauir Studio architecture firm’s design will kick off soon with a 300-day construction timeline, possibly placing its grand opening before the end of this year.

Mayor Lionel Johnson said the project is part of the city’s Pride Program, which outlines future growth for the city.

“We want this building to not only be pretty, but be a sign: Law enforcement is a serious issue in St. Gabriel,” Johnson said. “We have a low crime rate and we want to keep it that way.”

Johnson and Ambeau talked of several setbacks in getting the project to the building stage, one of them being funding shortfalls from the state.

State Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville, on Monday praised city leaders for stepping up to allocate the funds needed to get the project going as the state struggled with budget cuts.

He also promised the city would be reimbursed 75 percent of the money it fronted once state leaders iron out budget woes.

“We’re going to make sure you get your money,” Brown said.

Brown added, “This is a clear indication of growth. St. Gabriel is open and welcome and people will see this is truly a city.”

No plans were announced Monday about what would happen to the building that currently houses the Police Department on La. 30.

The city’s first building since incorporation was the community center built in 2003.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.