MADERA – For the first time in the history of the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, they will have a dedicated Emergency Operations Center, and all departments will be housed under one roof.
On Thursday, Oct. 31, the Sheriff’s Office broke ground on retrofitting a new 27,500 sq. ft. facility on Falcon Drive near the airport in Madera.
The new building is a brand new warehouse that was in foreclosure when it was identified by dispatcher Kristi Murray as a possible fit for the Sheriff’s Office. The County agreed to pay $9.5 million for the property, and will be making payments on a lease/purchase arrangement over 20 years.
The current office building on Road 28, which once served as the Welfare Office, was built in 1942 and is just 10,000 square feet. It is not large enough to house all the various operations of the Sheriff’s Office, so they are now spread out across three separate locations, making communications between the troops “interesting at best, and problematic at worst,” says Sheriff John Anderson.
“Having separate locations not only costs more, but it is very inefficient,” says Anderson, who appointed a committee to look into finding a central location several years ago.
Then-lieutenant and current Undersheriff Mike Salvador was chosen to chair the committee after he put this project at the top of his wish list in 2008. He says the importance of having all operations of the Sheriff’s Office in one location cannot be overstated.
“This will put our investigators, our civil division, our dispatchers, our administration – everyone in one location,” said Salvador. “We will also have strategic access to the freeway, which will help cut down on response times.”
The new facility will have three conference rooms, plus a two-car evidence garage where suspect vehicles can be pulled into the building for processing by investigators. The planned Emergency Operations Center will also serve as a classroom, and four 70″ interactive video boards will allow everyone to view operations plans, and then print out what they need to take into the field.
There will be 100 secure parking spaces and a fueling station for patrol vehicles, plus something Salvador is very excited about – an area for a museum to display the history of the department.
“There will be display cases and TV monitors so that those waiting in the lobby area can peruse items from the early days of the department including badges and lights, case files from the 1930s, and even a letter to the Sheriff of Madera County signed by J. Edgar Hoover,” says Salvador.
Sheriff’s Office personnel will also be able to monitor all the surveillance cameras throughout the county, plus the 40 cameras that will be installed throughout and around the building itself.
The new facility will house about 70 personnel, with the department’s additional 30 operating out of the new Sheriff’s Substation in Oakhurst.
Salvador says this is the most rewarding project he has been a part of in his career, and calls it a quintessential leap forward in technology for the Sheriff’s Office.
Ribbon cutting on the new facility is expected to take place in about 180 days.