City starts site search for new TPD headquarters

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

After having to do a right about turn on plans for building a new Tallahassee Police Department headquarters on the Southside, the process of finding a new location is well underway.

The City commission approved two of three recommendations at its last meeting, while requesting its staff to do a new RFP with a design and engineering company.

 The commission also wants to reconsider a two-mile radius from the center of the city for locating the new TPD headquarters.

“It’s important that we do it right this time around,” said Commissioner Curtis Richardson. “With the process that was outlined by staff, it gave all of us a comfort level that it will be.”

The two-mile radius from the city’s center, which assistant City Manager Wayne Tedder said is at the intersection of Tennessee Street and North Monroe, was part of the two recommendations that the commission approved by a 3-2 vote. 

“We want to have the best site,” said Commissioner Jeremy Matlow. “We want community feedback on everywhere so let’s look at a wider search and see what comes back.”

During presentation of the three recommendations by Tedder, he outlined details of how efforts started several years ago to build a new police headquarters. He also outlined several steps that will be taken, including public engagement.

That was the source of contention that led to two town Hall meetings, resulting in the commission deciding to stop plans for building the police headquarters on the Southside. The process of finding a new site also was part of the staff’s recommendations.

While staff recommended choosing from three sites, Commission Dianne Williams-Cox said more should be considered. Jacqueline Perkins suggested during the public speakers segment that property owned by the city at the intersection of Gamble and Lake Jackson be considered to keep it on the south side of town.

At least nine acres were suggested as the ideal size for the new headquarters. Staff also suggested a 2023 timeline for completing construction.

“I want to see all the sites,” Williams-Cox said. “We’ve been getting emails and calls where people are recommending sites.”

Some of those locations include Wildwood, DCF location when that office moves and the Tallahassee mall.

“We’re getting suggestions from everywhere and that’s good; that’s the spirit we want. I don’t want to pigeon-hole and select any one. The real issue is we are following a transparent process. Everyone knows what it is (and) the community is going to be engaged so ultimately whatever we end up with is going to be one that we all decided on together.”

Richardson, who called for halting the plans to build on the Southside after strong opposition during the town hall meetings, said he was pleased that the public will be involved from the initial stage of reviving the search for a location.

“I think we are still moving in the right direction,” Richardson said. “We heard the public that they want to be involved in the process and we got that built into every step of the process. It won’t slow it down.

“I think we will reach that 2023 timeline; give or take a few months. But I think we are still in good shape now to provide a facility in terms of what the department needs in terms of functioning and also what the community expects.”