For 50 years, Baltimore County police officers assigned to the Parkville area have worked out of a cramped, single-story brick building on Old Harford Road. Stuffy and dusty, it even smells old.
Yesterday, the officers packed up and moved out -- to temporary trailers that some said seem roomier than the building. The officers will call the trailers home for the next 2 1/2 years during an $8.7 million project to build separate police and fire stations on the footprint of a building that houses both departments.
Asked if he minded working out of a trailer, Officer Ed Borman responded, "I'm thrilled to death. Have you looked at our old offices?"
With about 5,000 square feet of storage and work space, the police side of the Parkville building is the oldest and smallest of the county's nine police precincts. It's one-fifth the size of the Franklin Precinct, the county's newest and largest police station.
On any given day, as many as 45 police officers and six firefighters work out of the Parkville building.
The firefighters work in 5,500 square feet of space that adjoins the police side, but they have a major problem: Their equipment doesn't fit. New fire engines are too tall for the station's two bays, said Capt. Jerry Pfeifer, fire facilities manager.
Although the future fire and police facilities will be separate, they'll both remain on the same lot at Old Harford Road and Putty Hill Avenue.
The new police station will cost $5.4 million and will look a lot like the 25,000-square-foot Franklin Precinct because both buildings are designed from the same prototype, said county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler. Franklin, built for $4.5 million, replaced a 40-year-old police building and has enough space to accommodate more than 250 officers.
It also has a system of surveillance cameras and a modern detention area. By contrast, the old Parkville building has one holding cell, and it hasn't been used in at least a decade, said Capt. Ronald B. Schwartz, commander of the Parkville Precinct. People who have been arrested are instead held at the newer station in White Marsh.
Under the construction plan, firefighters won't be displaced. First, the police side of the building will be demolished and a fire station will go up in its place. Then firefighters will move into the new 9,200-square-foot building, and the rest of the old building will be torn down. A new police station will then be built. The county estimates the project will be completed by late 2006.
The Police Department has another construction project planned. Later this year, workers will break ground on a $5 million station in Pikesville, which will add a 10th police precinct to the county.
Yesterday, with window air conditioners humming in the background at the Parkville building, county movers and officers lugged box after box and file after file out of the old building.
The officers will unpack into a network of five trailers connected by decks. Tucked in a corner of the police parking lot, the trailers have 4,200 square feet of space, which rivals the old building.
"This place was built in '54," Schwartz said as he stood among stacks of cardboard boxes in his tiny office. "It's time to move on."