Air conditioning ducts, plumbing pipes and colorful wires hang exposed on several unpopulated floors of the Baton Rouge Police Department’s new headquarters — the former site of Woman’s Hospital — where a large-scale demolition and construction project recently began.
Only part of the hospital has been remodeled into offices suitable for police. Transforming the rest of the hospital into a police department will pave the way for those officers and other staff still working out of the department’s old headquarters on Mayflower Street to move to the new building.
The new headquarters, on the old hospital campus at the intersection of Airline Highway and Goodwood Boulevard, still does not appear to be a police department from the outside. Inside, though, laborers have worked hard to transform the former health care hub into a functional public safety complex.
“We’re in the process of transforming a medical facility into an operational police headquarters,” Cpl. Don Coppola Jr., a police spokesman, said Monday following a tour of the floors undergoing a renovation. The pace of the project has been steady, and the department is looking forward to a completion date, Coppola said, although such a finish line remains somewhat murky and fluid.
The department hopes to have everyone still working at the Mayflower Street building moved into the new complex before the dawn of 2015. Divisions still in the old headquarters include traffic and criminal records, supply, internal affairs and alarm enforcement divisions, officials have said.
The Metro Council approved a $4.6 million bond issue to cover the building’s renovation costs. In addition, the council allocated $500,000 this year and $200,000 last year to the project, city officials have said.
The city-parish to date has budgeted $16.3 million for the purchase and initial renovations of the complex.
Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. and his staff were the first to move into the new headquarters in December. Other divisions trickled in behind them, including the accounting and legal divisions, computer operations and most of the administration and bureau commanders.
Demolition crews recently tore down walls on the first, fourth and fifth floors at the new headquarters, preparing for the remodeling and renovation work. Those floors will house the offices of staff members still working at the Mayflower Street building.
As the work continues, some items in the old hospital are being trashed, while some of it is being salvaged for use by the police.
“They left what they could to meet our needs,” Sgt. Robert Farrelly, who oversees the project for the department, said Monday of the demolition crews, “but everything else has been gutted.”
In one room, sinks, soap dispensers and doors were piled high. The appliances and hardware were among the items that will be recycled for the department’s use, Farrelly said.
In another part of the building, architects left washer and dryer hookups accessible so in case of emergencies where officers work long shifts or are stranded in the building, they’ll still be able to wash their clothes. Dirty clothes became an issue during hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, Farrelly said.
Once those remaining at the Mayflower building move to the new complex, the department will consolidate even more by relocating other officers now working in various locations around the city into the new headquarters.
However, what other agencies will move to the Airline campus, billed as the site of a multiagency, parishwide public safety complex, remains unclear.
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