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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


For the first time ever, space in the Elkader City Hall is being remodeled to meet the specific law enforcement needs of the town’s police department.

An area off the City Council Chambers that was once a kitchen and storage room is getting a much-needed overhaul. In addition to a lot of drywall, the space has a new ceiling, lighting, flooring and cabinets. It also now includes a new interview room, processing area, workspace for officers and a private office for the police chief.

“Our goal was to make a professional-looking and secure work area for the officers,” said Elkader City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert. “They lacked adequate storage for evidence and records, and they were also missing an area to have a private conversation with both victims and suspects. In the old space, you couldn’t attach anything to the walls. The lighting and electrical in (one specific area) was minimal and definitely not up to code.”

Over the past couple decades City Hall and the Police Department have occupied various places in the Opera House. The decision was made in 2001 to permanently locate City Hall in the basement level of the historic building. Those plans included room for the Police Department but in the end that space had to be used for an elevator. The only open spot with a locking door was the old kitchen/coal chute/storage area, which is where city law enforcement officials have worked for nearly a decade.

Police Chief Marvin Duff, a long-time member of the Elkader department, said the remodel addresses air quality as well as dampness and mildew issues. The new space will also enable officers to secure information, evidence and data, which is important because unsecured information can potentially result in “significant legal and liability issues,” he added.

“Weapons and ammunition will be stored in locked cabinets, and there will be counter space and a sink available for processing evidence, cleaning firearms and taking fingerprints,” Duff continued. “A key factor in attracting and retaining officers is providing a safe, attractive and efficient workspace. This is the first time in the department’s history that we’ve had that.”

City employees initially worked on the project, which started in February 2015. As they got busier with other responsibilities, it was decided to contract the work to professional builders. The job is nearly complete; the police department could be moved in within days.

Originally budgeted at $25,000, the remodel is likely to cost around $57,000. The work is being funded using money that’s been set aside for the project and local optional sales tax, which can be used for capitol improvements.

“There are a variety of reasons we’ve gone over budget,” Cowsert said. “We started with an estimate that was three years old. And as with most construction projects, we ran into (unexpected) issues.” She said an uneven floor, a problem connecting walls to the ceiling and framing within the existing space were some of the challenges workers face. “Also, we thought we’d be able to do a lot of the work ourselves, and that was just taking too long.”

Cowsert added that when city offices were constructed in 2006, the project was also over budget.



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