By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – The city of Cookeville today broke ground on a new police station to be located at the corner of Old Walton Road and Neal Street across from the Cookeville Higher Education Center campus. The building will house the police department and the city courts.
The police department has been housed in the basement of the Cookeville Performing Arts Center for over 40 years, and the city court is currently held in the municipal building.
Cookeville Police Chief Randy Evans has been working on a new station for the past seven years and said that former Chief Bob Terry was working on it before that.
“The really wonderful thing is that this project went through multiple councils, changes in city managers, and no one ever waivered on the project. I think everyone knows there’s a need here,” said Evans.
As the city population grew from around 20,500 in 1980 to an estimated 35,000 today, the police department grew, but their space didn’t.
“We’ve been in the current facility since 1979. I actually went back, and we found a clipping from the Herald (-Citizen newspaper) when they did the groundbreaking in 1977,” added Evans. “We’ve been in that facility that long and outgrew it 20 years ago. We found ways of getting creative and utilizing space in other facilities, so we made it work, but this gives us the space we need.”
Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton agreed, “The police department has been in the basement of a building for almost 50 years. It’s been a long time coming. With my dad as a former chief and safety director, the police department and fire department has always had a special place, and now to see this come to fruition is really exciting.”
The new facility will feature an education room, a training room, a courtroom and a secured area for officers’ offices, labs, evidence storage, etc. There will also be secure parking with charging stations for police cars and motorcycles.
“We’re going to have a premier facility which our police department deserves,” said Shelton. “This will be a beacon on the hill. It will be an amazing facility. It’s not extravagant, but it will be very, very functional. It’s going to be where it can serve the city’s needs for another 40-50 years.”
At their next meeting, the city council will consider a change order to completely close in an additional 3,000 square feet on the third floor.
“If the council decides to add that extension, and we’ll take that to council next Thursday, it’ll give us some future space as well. Hopefully, it’ll be a space that’ll serve us and the community for some years to come,” said Evans. “Again, everything from the location, the features of the building, to bringing the court in, what it’s all about is serving our community in the best way we can, and this facility does all that.”