The Justin Sollohub Justice Center, named in memory of Officer Justin Sollohub who was killed in the line of duty in 2011, is scheduled to be finished in mid-March.
About one-third of the 57,500-square-foot building will be devoted to a new jail and two-thirds to the police department and municipal court. The Administrative and Investigative divisions as well as the jail will move into the new facility at the end of March or early April, said Anniston Police Chief Layton McGrady. He expects the move to go smoothly.
“The main problem is going to be the property room,” McGrady said.
The property room contains evidence that has to be protected from any kind of contamination. That means the officer who manages the property room has to be the one to package and move every piece of evidence, McGrady said.
Anniston City Councilman Jay Jenkins said the police building in use now was constructed in the 1950s, and police were dealing with a host of problems due to its age.
The new building has a storage area that will house Anniston’s police dog as well as animals picked up by officers while they wait for animal control to get them. There is separate storage for ammunition and weapons. It also includes a sally port, an enclosed drive-through bay, for prisoner drop-off.
“Times are changing and we’re having to change with it,” McGrady said.
The spaces are designed specifically for each of the divisions of the Police Department and flow in a way that complements the way the spaces are used. For instance, the new crime lab is connected to the property division, such that when the crime lab has finished its analysis the evidence goes directly next door to eliminate the chance of contamination, said McGrady.
The new spaces are also designed to be flexible, he added. The courtroom will have moveable seats in the gallery so the space can be used for training or even for shelter for police officers’ families during bad weather, McGrady said.
If there was a power outage at their homes, the officers would be able to bring their families there and continue to work, Jenkins said.
“It’s hard to get them in here and do their job if they’re worried about their family,” McGrady said.
Security was also a premium concern as the new facilities were designed. The building will have two generators in case of power outage. The lobby of the new facility was constructed with bulletproof wallboard to protect the people inside the secure areas. In each block of the jail, the cells open on to a day room that will serve as community space and eating area. Visitors will now speak to inmates via video set up in the day room. The jail cells themselves are concrete modular units that came with all the necessary furniture, plumbing and electrical elements precast in the concrete. In addition, inmates will be taken to the jail through the secure hallways of the jail directly to the courtroom where they will wait in holding areas for their turn in front of the judge, McGrady said.
“What we’re trying to do is limit the movement of the prisoners,” McGrady said. “That’s where you start running into a risk is when you start getting them out of jail, out of the cells and moving them.”
The new facility also reflects its history. The columns at the building’s entrance will match the columns on the pavilion in Zinn Park directly across 13th street. The lobby of the police department will include a granite memorial on the wall listing the city’s fallen police officers. Even the building’s new address — 174 W. 13th St. — gives a nod to Sollohub, in that 174, McGrady pointed out, was Sollohub’s badge number.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.