The City of Jacksonville continues the construction of a $5.7 million police/911 emergency communications center.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said progress is going smoothly as contractors continue to build the new police hub. The 45,000 square foot building will house the police department, fire department classrooms, the city’s 911 communications center and a safe room to protect people during tornado and severe weather outbreaks.

Fletcher said the new building should house the city police station around January.

"We were able to get the safe room through a FEMA grant," said Fletcher. FEMA stands for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Fletcher said former city Mayor Tommy Swain assisted in making the new building a reality when his administration set aside funding for it. Besides funds set aside by Swain, the city is borrowing some funds for its construction, Fletcher said.

"This police department is over 60 years old and the roof leaks," Fletcher said, who added the leaky roof caused the city police chief’s computer to be damaged.

"We had to do work on the bathrooms recently and had to spend $800," Fletcher said. "We had to get a plumber recently to take several trips to the bathroom to fix it. This building is getting too expensive to maintain."

Fletcher added, "Last year, we had to take a jack hammer to the floor in the booking area to get into the plumbing."

Fletcher said the new building will help be a recruitment tool for the police department. "This is going to transform us from the Matt Dylan days to CSI," he said.

The new building also will serve the city during the next 60 or 70 years, he added.

There are a few small jail cells which will be used as temporary holding units.

Jacksonville will continue taking its prisoners to the Pulaski County jail in Little Rock. The county jail recently opened up an additional 80 beds to house more prisoners.

Fletcher said the trend in the courts is having jails that can house prisoners for longer periods of time.

The building also will replace the police department’s current evidence room which looks very close to a small walk-in closet.

The city’s K-9 units and police dogs also will benefit because the dogs will have rooms to remain for extended stays during shifts. Currently, dogs are kept often in police cars with the engines running because of a lack of space to accommodate them when officers are in their police cruisers filling out forms, Fletcher said.

Fletcher said it is currently unclear what the city will do with the current police station. He said one possibility will be to expand the room now used by the Jacksonville court system.