Community tours Manchester's new town offices/police station (Michel Elben / Carroll County Times)
MANCHESTER — Ceremoniously cutting a large red ribbon in front of the new town offices and police station, Manchester officials seemed pleased with the final product. More than 70 people attended the ceremony, dedication and tour Sunday afternoon.
"You couldn't ask for a better location," Manchester's town administrator Steve Miller said. "This is the hub of the activities for the town of Manchester."
Miller said the Victory Street location, near Christmas Tree Park, was the fourth site town officials considered. They wanted the facility to be flexible and to blend in with the surrounding area. The structure houses the police force and town administration. It also includes lockers and showers for public works employees if they have to spend the night during an emergency, a meeting room and a conference room.
"We wanted the exterior to blend it with the park and the neighboring homes in the area," Miller explained. "We knew the building was going to be big but we wanted to take some aspects of nearby homes into account so we added dormers and used earth tone colors. We have heard no complaints. Neighbors say we nailed it."
Miller said the facility has tripled the police department's space and provides "the best technology out there for our police department."
The town's police chief, John Hess Jr., said he "loves it."
"When I came here three years ago, the police department we had was not up to date," Hess said. "In today's society, when you're dealing with a person in crisis or a sensitive issue, you need privacy. In the old building, everything was open for disclosure."
Hess said the new building helps officers conduct private interviews and it includes video capability in key spots.
"We have the best interview and interrogation rooms in the county," Hess said.
Hess also said he liked having "the complete team under one roof."
"It makes perfect sense for us all to be together. If we have a major catastrophe, we're self contained. We have a generator and we're on the same grounds as the activity building. It can be turned into a make-shift hospital," Hess said, adding, "I'm glad that it all came together and it was cost effective."
During the dedication, Mayor Ryan Warner said despite the delay in construction, the facility is "a building that can be the face of the town for the next 40 to 50 years."
Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said the building shows "the town clearly cares, not only about their officers, but about their employees."
Carroll County Commissioner Steve Wantz, R-District 1, described the town's officials as "forward thinking folks."
"From where they were to this facility is amazing," Wantz said. "I applaud everyone that had something to do with this. Enjoy this facility for years to come. It will serve you well."
Manchester Valley Fire Company member Elwin Wagner, of Manchester, has lived in the town for 63 years. Wagner said he was impressed.
"I realized, like a lot of citizens, that their current location was crowded," Wagner said. "This is expanded and now (town officials) and the police department are in one building. It's like the Taj Mahal of Manchester. It's very beautiful and it's a great location."
Sandy Walsh, of Manchester, attended the dedication with her mother, June Litzau. They have been living in the town since 1957.
"I think accessibility will be a lot better as far as parking and the use of the facility itself," Walsh said. "It's very well laid out."
"They've been thinking about it for a long time. They needed a better place because what they had before was much too small. We should feel safer now, not that we weren't before," DePalmer said, adding, "It's a beautiful place."
Over the next three months the existing police station will become a community meeting hall and the old town hall will become a historical center, according to Miller.