RUPERT — The Rupert Police Department is weeks away from moving to a new building nearly double the size of its current one.
The building, 633 Fremont Ave, is on the corner and across the street from the department’s current location, and it will increase the function of the office and provide enhanced security.
The building was the former Minidoka County School District’s central office.
The structure has been vacant since 2012 when the school district relocated its central office to the old Memorial Elementary School building in Rupert.
Enhanced features include cameras throughout the building, a reception window at the public entrance located inside an enclosed area and a suspect interview area separate from the patrol room, detective and sheriff’s offices.
“The building will be totally secure,” James Wardle, Rupert police chief, said.
The public access area will have chairs and contain the department’s drug drop off box.
The biggest improvement, Detective Jeff McEwen said, will come from having the secure interview area.
When a suspect is brought into the office for questioning they are led through areas at the station where sensitive documents or information may be visible on officer’s desks or on bulletin boards.
“We have to make sure all the desks are cleared off and we can’t put anything like officer safety publications on the wall,” Wardle said.
The new interview room is easily accessible from the outside and it is behind a locked door leading to the rest of the building.
“Now if someone is yelling and screaming you won’t be able to hear them throughout the entire building,” McEwen said.
Rupert Administrator Kelly Anthon wrote in an email to the Times-News that the purchase price for the building was $40,000 with some intangibles for the school district that include credits and waiver of fees if the district builds a new elementary school in the city.
“The money was donated to allow the purchase,” Anthon wrote, so no taxpayer cash is involved.
“The donor wanted the Wilson Theatre to get possession of the old police station to be an annex to the theater. So we have contemporaneously leased our old station to the Renaissance Arts-Wilson Theatre group,” Anthon said.
The project has been in the works for the past two years.
Renovations have been ongoing for the past 10 weeks including building walls, installing sheet rock, hanging ceiling tiles and painting.
The police department has put $28,000 into renovations that came from the police budget but much of the work has been done by Wardle, his officers and administration staff.
The department has a staff of 12 including officers, detectives and administration.
The office has handicap accessible restrooms, which were lacking in the other building and the evidence room will also have an alarm.
Eventually the department would like to install evidence lockers in the wall that adjoin the evidence room for added security, Wardle said, but the lockers are pretty costly.
DL Evans Bank has donated used desks and chairs to the department.
There will also be a large training room that can be used for community training like concealed weapons and Citizen Academy classes. The training room capacity will increase from 20 to 50 people.
“This room will be our crown jewel,” Wardle said. “We hope we will be able to hold regional trainings.”
The training room can also be used for victim interviews and the patrol room will be behind locked doors.
Wardle plans to put a picnic table and an umbrella outside at the front of the building to make the office more community friendly.
“It will make it easier for the officers to interact with people,” Wardle said.
When the department completes the renovations and moves into the building an open house will be planned.
“The future looks so promising with everything that we want to do here,” he said.