MARYVILLE, Mo. — Committed to community.
It’s the phrase matter-of-factly tucked on the side of every police vehicle in Maryville, so non-descript and unassuming that it might escape notice alongside the more colorful Maryville Public Safety seal or the much larger “POLICE” along the doors.
But to MPS Director Keith Wood, there are no words that say as loudly his agency’s mission.
“Those are not words we just paste on the car and take lightly,” Wood told the dozens of his colleagues, community members and government leaders gathered Monday afternoon at the groundbreaking for the new MPS headquarters.
Moments away from turning the first dirt in the 360-day process to bring the state-of-the-art facility to fruition, speaker after speaker on Monday took the microphone to echo Wood’s sentiment — and reverse it.
Monday, it was all about the community committing to public safety.
In succession, City Manager Greg McDanel, Mayor Rachael Martin, Wood and Rep. Allen Andrews all praised the conviction of voters who approved a capital improvement sales tax in 2017, and the city officials who stuck with the long, arduous process of keeping the massive undertaking within the city’s means while making from scratch exactly the building they wanted for their community.
“A tedious, but necessary, process,” McDanel called it. “We’re designing a public safety building that will serve us for the next 50 years, so it should be lengthy.”
The long road to groundbreaking stretches back to conversations in 2013 the city had about moving its public safety services out of the 1960s-era grocery store it currently inhabits into a modern facility built to spec just for this purpose, and just for them.
A combined facility that will house police, fire and dispatch services, the complex represents a huge leap forward with triple the space, modern functionality and upgraded infrastructure, including a new combined 911 dispatch center. A handshake agreement with county officials will allow the city and county to share the approximate $1 million added cost of the center.
“It will actually be a hardened facility, almost a building within a building,” Wood explained while standing on the spot where the new dispatch center will be a year from now. “It’ll be designed to withhold a lot more weather and things of that nature than the rest of the building. … We don’t want to lose communications in a disaster, so that’s why we’ve hardened it.”
Other shortcomings of the current space will be rectified as well, such as dedicated interview rooms, holding rooms for suspects and security features like secured storage. And the fire division will have custom-made areas for storing equipment, as well as a pull-through garage to house three engines.
But in the six years between the first, seemingly out-of-reach designs and the afternoon when shovels finally met dirt, there might have been a few days where it looked like it may never happen.
“Yeah,” Wood admitted. “Almost every day there for a while.”
“A lot of false starts, a lot of stops and starts,” McDanel said of the past half-decade of wrangling to get all the pieces to fit.
The new facility, located at First and Vine, just down the street from the current MPS building, will carry a pricetag of right around $4 million once all is said and done, including yet-to-be-purchased furniture. In other words, right on target.
Contractor E.L. Crawford, which is using several local vendors as part of its successful bid to build the headquarters, has committed to a 360-day construction process — putting the completion date around this time next year.
“Next year, we’ll have another celebration and invite everyone back,” McDanel said.
Contractors, government officials and community leaders took their turn with ceremonial golden shovels, but, not to be outdone, Martin, who had joked several times in City Council meetings about taking a turn in the driver’s seat of just such a vehicle (along with a snowplow), stole the show by hopping into a backhoe and digging out a couple of scoopfuls to a standing ovation.
“I think ‘joy,’ is probably about as good a word as any,” Wood said afterward. “I appreciate the public interest at this point, and we do not take it lightly, the support that they show us.”