JACKSONVILLE —  After four years of planning, the City Council on Monday unanimously approved plans for the new public safety and municipal complex.

Council president Mark Jones characterized the complex as greatly needed. The city has appropriated $9.8 million for the project, with roughly $400,000 already spent on the project’s previous architects.

Jones said he hopes to have bidders for the project near the end of October, with construction beginning at the start of 2015.

Plans presented to the council earlier this month include 46,769 square feet of space. Designs for the fire department include room for eight one-man dorm rooms, and five enclosed bays for vehicles and training rooms.

The courtroom would seat 230 people and double as a community storm shelter capable of holding 600 during emergencies.

The police department plans include interview rooms, a fortified dispatch area and a garage for confiscated cars.  

“We’ve been needing a new police department for a long time,” Jones said. “We need to add fire protection, with the hospital out there, community development out there. That’s been discussed even before the complex talks took place. It’s long overdue.”

Jacksonville police chief Tommy Thompson agreed with Jones on the need for a new police department.

“We’re pleased. We’ve been on it four or five years, from our end,” Thompson said. “I’m in a 1934 building, if that tells you anything. It’ll be all sorts of improvement to 1934.”

In other business, the council:

—  Unanimously approved a resolution to ask Jacksonville State University’s board of trustees to authorize and approve an exchange of property with the city. The city will trade property along Alexandria Jacksonville Road for property in Jacksonville that includes Eastwood School and Kitty Stone Elementary.

Jones said the JSU board of trustees will have the request for their Monday board meeting, and he expects the plans to be finalized by the end of the month. Jones said the city is still discussing the use of the schools.

 Voted to have a the city’s Development and Planning Committee come up with proposals for a business district with special ordinances bolstering restaurants, entertainment and retail businesses.

The committee will determine the parameters of the district as well as its ordinances.

All council members voted for the district except Truman Norred, who abstained from voting.

Jones said the district would likely help JSU recruit more students.

Councilwoman Sandra Sudduth was absent from the meeting.

Staff Writer Zac Al-Khateeb: 256-235-3554. On Twitter @zalkhateeb_Star.