COVINGTON – Last month, city officials decided on a home for the new police station, and it’s a decision they didn’t take lightly.
“It was a significant day in the city’s history,” said mayor Justin Hanson. “This is a significant investment in the future of public safety.”
Its accessibility to both the highway and residential areas landed the new station at the current site of the Tipton County Commission on Aging at the corner of Church and College streets.
The senior center, to which it is often referred, will be moving into the Covington Municipal Complex once its current phase of renovation is completed.
Property assessment data shows the 4.2 acres upon which it’s been housed for four decades, in the former Covington Grammar School, has been owned by the city since April 1894.
Other properties considered were a parcel near the H.T. Hackney Corporation on South College Street, near Mueller Brass Road, and a portion of the Newman property, a grant-funded land purchase in Cobb Parr Park.
“It was important for our city to decide on the absolute best location,” said Hanson. “We had several conversations about it.”
Due to the lack of future expansion – the lot is also bordered by Seminary and Green streets – the grammar school property wasn’t his first choice, but it was a full circle moment for police chief Buddy Lewis.
“On that property is where I went to grammar school and there are a lot of memories for me from when I was child,” he said. “I can remember eating many a school lunch in the cafeteria.”
Whether or not the city will leave the structure, an addition to the school which opened in 1954, standing and renovations made for the police department has not yet been decided, Hanson said.
“There are a lot of challenges with the building and to bring it into the 21st century public safety standards will be very costly and very difficult.”
Hanson said he understands the emotional connection many former students feel for the building and the city will keep that in mind as it moves forward with decisions.
While the future of the building is still yet undetermined, the grant-funded tennis courts and lighting will need to be relocated as will the handful of graves on site. It’s a little-known fact that several members of the Green-Boon family are buried the property.
There was a 2010 court order to move the graves and reinter the bodies at R.H. Munford Cemetery, however that has not yet been done.
Hanson said the next step to building the new facility is site work and a developing a preliminary site plan.
Having to vacate their current facility because of safety concerns, the department will soon be housed in two separate buildings: patrol officers and administrative personnel will be located on Main Street adjacent to the CMC, and across from the post office, and the chiefs and investigative division will be at the former library location in the new Church Street annex.
The move is expected to be completed by the end of the month and will give Lewis and some of his staff a front seat to the construction of the new station, which is expected to be completed in 18-24 months.
“Public safety in this city will be housed in a facility that is second to none,” said Lewis. “That’s really something to be proud of and I’m proud to be the chief when this came about. It’s a monumental step for public safety in Covington.”