After spending 16 years in an aging building in Lincoln's University Place neighborhood — and a few short months crowded into the Police Department's downtown headquarters — LPD's Northeast Team has moved into its new digs.
The new state-of-the-art station opened its doors to the public Friday morning following a news conference that marked the end of a years-long process of finding and outfitting a new home for the Northeast Team.
The standalone police station, at 5201 R St., replaces the Northeast Team's previous facility at 4843 Huntington Ave., where the team spent 16 years in the footprint of the Nebraska Wesleyan University campus.
The geographical police team outgrew that 1920s-era building, which the city leased, and moved out in January.
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"They're happy as a clam," Assistant Police Chief Brian Jackson said at Friday's news conference, joking about the crowd of police officers and civilian staff members standing a few feet behind him in the station's parking lot along R Street.
Jackson, who helped guide the project from its origins under former Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister, appeared at the news conference alongside Police Chief Teresa Ewins, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, four City Council members and dozens of police personnel.
Gaylor Baird, who has touted millions' worth of investments her administration has poured into the city's public safety agencies amid her reelection campaign, described the new police station as a "long-term investment in public safety" that would aid in the department's ability to police the growing city.
The new station, which sits a few blocks north of O Street, is roughly a mile south of the previous Northeast Station. Jackson has repeatedly said the move south won't affect the department's response times to calls for service in northeast Lincoln.
"We have to realize our officers call this home, but once they're ready to start their shift, have their lineup, (then) they're out in the community; they're in their cars," he said.
"Our response time is not dictated by a single point on the map. Our response time is based on where our officers are at any given time when those calls for service come out."
Still, for Capt. Jeff Bucher, who took over the Northeast Team in September after serving as the head of LPD's criminal investigation division, the move came with a sigh of relief after the team's two-month stay downtown — 4 miles from the new station.
The renovated building was initially set to be ready late last year, but a supply chain delay on a crucial electrical panel caused months of delays. The panel — which was supposed to ship in October — still hasn't arrived, but city inspectors approved occupancy without that piece of equipment.
"We worked a bypass with the city to get us in here a little bit quicker, because I felt it was a huge public safety issue, the fact that we were downtown for a while, coming to Northeast and the time delay," Bucher said.
Bucher said much of the new station was designed with input from officers including Capt. Mayde McGuire, who Bucher replaced as the head of the Northeast Team after she transferred to the department's education and personnel unit.
The single-story station includes a lineup room, co-ed locker room, private changing and shower rooms, two break rooms, three interview rooms, a weight room, a garage for fingerprinting and storage and a storm shelter with 2-foot concrete walls.
The bay of desks and offices that will house officers and sergeants on duty is designed with an open-floor plan to foster open and seamless communication — something that Bucher said at times proved difficult on Huntington Avenue, where the station was two stories.
Bucher joked that it was "scary" finally moving into the new building after spending months in limbo.
"It's a good feeling," he said, more seriously. "I think I need to get settled in here and then get back into the community, but I think it's gonna be a really good thing. (I think) it's gonna be a positive thing for the community, I really do."
Lincoln's 911 dispatch center, which the city shares with Lancaster County, will also move into the new building, when work on the western half of the building is finished and the electrical panel the city has been waiting on arrives.
Jackson said the city's decision to combine the Northeast Station and dispatch center into one project was an act of "good stewardship" from city leaders.
The building cost the city $7 million to purchase and renovate — but ultimately cost city taxpayers a fraction of that, Jackson said.
The city paid for the station with $4.5 million in federal CARES Act funds and a combined $2.5 million of asset forfeiture funds and money re-appropriated from elsewhere in the department's annual budget.
When the Northeast Team moved into the University Place station in 2006, the City Council signed a 15-year lease with the Kinport Corporation, which owns the building. It cost the city $184,800 in the initial year and the rate was adjusted annually based on changes to the consumer price index, according to the lease agreement.
The city extended its lease an extra year in September 2021, paying $20,101 per month through the end of August 2022, when the city signed a final, five-month extension with Kinport. The city paid $20,101 to lease the building in September and $21,000 per month for the last four months of the lease.
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