The City of Covington will soon host a meeting seeking public input on the location of a new police station.
The date has not yet been set, but the city intends to discuss the construction of a much-needed facility in an area of Cobb-Parr Memorial Park known as the Newman Property.
Consisting of 83.7 acres between the park and Hwy. 59 West, city leaders have determined a portion of the property to be an ideal location for a new station because it is central to the city and adjacent to higher-crime areas.
However, because the property was a grant-funded purchase in 2008, in which the city intended to use the land for its park system, simply building a new facility there cannot be done.
“It seems doable, but we’ll have to jump through hoops,” said Pat Harcourt, senior vice president at A2H, a Memphis-based engineering and design firm.
During a meeting of the city’s finance and administration committee on April 18, city attorney Rachel Witherington told city leaders in order to convert the property from a park to a police station, the city would need to submit a “lengthy narrative” indicating its proposed plans with a $10,000 fee for the request.
Additionally, if the requested conversion is granted, the city will have to replace the land used for the new facility with land appraised at the same amount.
The match is dollar-for-dollar, not acre-for-acre, she said, and the property would need to be used for parks.
This process would also require an appraisal on the Newman property.
When it was purchased nine years ago, it cost $600,000, Witherington said, however it is expected to be appraised at near half that.
Witherington called the process “relatively dense” and said it could take anywhere from 90 days to six months to complete.
City leaders voted to proceed with a meeting seeking public input on the location and use of the Newman property before continuing the process and paying the $10,000 application fee.
Alderman John Edwards was concerned that asking to use grant-funded property for the police station rather than a park would affect future grant awards.
In nearly a decade, no master plan has ever been decided, or any plan funded, for the 83-acre property.
“It’s just sitting there,” alderman Drew Glass said in March. “We need to do something with it.”
Covington Police Chief Buddy Lewis said his department will work wherever the city decides to put the facility.
The department’s current facility is undergoing repairs required by the state fire marshal’s office, however personnel will soon be moved and split between the former library building at the corner of College and Church streets and the municipal center at Church and Main.
Lewis warns of the long-term effects of being split, urging city leaders to work diligently in the location and construction of a new facility.
“The efficiency in serving the public will not be what it should be,” he said. “I don’t want to still be doing this in two or two-and-a-half years.”
City leaders have toured several existing buildings – such as the former USDA office near Dyersburg State Community College and the former Worldwide Lines office north of Hope Street – as well as the property on which the current senior center is located and a vacant lot near Mueller Brass Road.
Harcourt said once a location has been decided, he estimates the new facility will take 12-14 months to build.