Crestview and Okaloosa consider shared site for police and tax collector

CRESTVIEW — The city’s police station on Stillwell Boulevard and the Okaloosa County Tax Collector’s Office on Wilson Street could move to a potential shared-use building on the north side of town.

Crestview City Manager Tim Bolduc and county tax collector Ben Anderson have been discussing this possibility for the past year. Bolduc said the decades-old police station was not storm-proof, and Anderson said he needed more space to serve the public faster in the rapidly growing Crestview.

On January 24, the city council unanimously approved to move forward with a conceptual agreement between the city and Anderson on the potential joint-use project.

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According to Bolduc, the potential building would be located on municipal land next to the Crestview Community Center, the Robert LF Sikes Public Library and the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce.

These three existing buildings sit on a 17-acre city-owned parcel on Commerce Drive, just southeast of Airport Road and State Road 85. The property was donated to the city years ago with building restrictions. act that require it to be used for government offices.

For the future, Bolduc envisages the construction of a building of at least two stories, with room for other offices in addition to those of the Police Department and the tax collector. He would stand on what is now an open field west of the Chamber of Commerce.

Crestview is considering moving its police station to a building that would share property with the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce on Commerce Drive.  The Okaloosa County Tax Collector's Office may also move to the site.

The potential deal could see the county pay most of the construction costs. In this scenario, in addition to providing the land for the project, the city would pay the cost of building the “shell” or part of the structure that would house the new police station, Bolduc said.

At this early stage, Bolduc and Anderson do not have an estimated cost. Ongoing construction is at least 18 months away, Bolduc said.

“We still have to define the terms of the agreement,” he said on Wednesday.

Pre-construction tasks would include obtaining a project site assessment and hiring a design firm.

From the county’s perspective, “We would have an appraisal of the land and instead of buying the entire property, we would create the relative value for the area I need and the area the city needs, and then we would come up with a dollar amount” for the overall potential project, Anderson said.

He said possible new space for city and county offices could be in one building or two buildings.

The city’s existing police station is in the Whitehurst Municipal Building at 201 Stillwell Blvd. The building includes Warriors Hall, which hosts various community events.

A city facility inventory and operational study completed last September by the Matrix Design Group of Niceville found that the facility is not rated to withstand a Category 1 hurricane. Additionally, an engineer who inspected the station a few years ago found that it did not meet today’s wind load requirements, Bolduc said.

The station dispatch center was relocated in 2020 to a hurricane-proof section of City Hall.

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But, “We need a place to house the officers in case of a hurricane, and a better place to store the evidence,” Bolduc said.

He said officers mainly worked from their vehicles and generally did not respond to calls from the station, meaning there would be little or no police car ‘lights and sirens’ at the new facility. .

Assuming it is built, the shared-use facility would help spur economic development on the north end of Crestview, Bolduc said. If the police station is moved, the Whitehurst municipal building would be redeveloped rather than demolished, he said.

While the police station may get a new home, Bolduc told council last week he had no desire to move City Hall from its downtown location on North Wilson Street.

“It’s too much of an economic stimulus for us to be here every day, with all the traffic and commuting that happens every day when it comes to local government,” Bolduc said.

Crestview plans to move its police station from Stillwell Boulevard to Commerce Drive near the Crestview Community Center.  The Okaloosa County Tax Collector's Office may share a building with the police department.

He said the tax collector’s office in the county-owned Bracken Building at 302 N. Wilson St. currently handles about 26,000 transactions a year, which means many cases would be transferred to the potential new facility.

Transactions include property tax payments, driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals, passport services, concealed weapons permit applications, and hunting and fishing license sales.

“We had been looking for another facility or a location to build a facility for over a year,” Anderson said. “Where we are now, we only have 10 officers serving the public at a time.”

Its Crestview office has been in the Bracken Building for 10 or 11 years. The office’s previous location was in the Old County Courthouse.

“Almost from day one (in the Bracken building), we’ve been at full capacity,” said Anderson, who added that the 30-40 minute wait times at this office are much longer than those at his offices. other larger offices.

He said studies analyzing customer wait times at his Crestview office found he needed three or four extra agents at the counter to be able to serve the public in a timely manner.

“You have to design and build for the future and not just for immediate needs,” Anderson said. “Crestview has become the largest town in the county. We are seeing strong growth on the north side of the city, as well as areas to the east and west.

Esther L. Steinbach