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Discussion about the criteria for a new police station, and the inadequacies of the current one, dominated discussion at the Sauk Prairie Police Commission meeting May 8.

The current police department, which is located under the Sauk City Village Hall, was meant to be the department’s home for 10 years. That was in 2001.

“We’re 18 years into the 10 year plan,” said Sauk Prairie Police Lieutenant Travis Hilliard.

The current location presents problems to police personnel, making it difficult to complete otherwise basic tasks.

One of the problems is being located on Water Street.

When exiting in a squad car from the police department onto Water Street, officers often turn right even if it means they’ll need to pull off onto another street and turn around to reach the destination of a call. It’s easier and safer than trying to guess if lanes are clear during the day when both sides of the street have parked vehicles obscuring the view.

“Trying to get back up to water street with traffic congestion is really difficult,” Hilliard said.

Confidentiality within the department is also a challenge. The walls of the place are too thin to obscure the conversations taking place behind them. For officers who need to conduct sensitive interviews with crime victims, that can present serious privacy issues.

The kitchen has no running water. The sink used to wash dishes is inside a storage closet with sewer pipes running along the walls above the sink and down into the floor.

Toilets have to be double checked to make sure they’re working before they’re used.

The shower doubles as a wash station in the event an officer is exposed to harmful substances. It’s also where the mop bucket gets dumped. Hilliard said the standard advice for police department personnel is to wear footwear while inside.

Currently, the police garage is in a separate facility from the main department. Officers regularly make a point to speak with nearby residents to make sure the often necessitated lights and sirens aren’t too much of a disturbance.

The original drug testing station is antiquated and no longer suitable for police use. The wall mounted fan used for ventilation “would not be adequate for something like fentanyl (where) tiny particles could kill you,” said Sauk Prairie Police Chief Jerry Strunz. “It doesn’t meet current standards at all.”

The department’s layout can be a problem in itself. An arrested individual has to be pulled through a public area of the building before being processed.

The computer room, where digital records are stored, isn’t secure enough for the department to make the switch to completely digital records.

“When you’re dealing with a records room or a computer room (in) a police facility, obviously, all the data we have stored here is very important,” Strunz said. “So there should be a fire standalone suppression system here, it should be temperature controlled.”

Police officials have had to turn away tour requests because the facilities couldn’t sufficiently accommodate enough people.

Hilliard said it would be “embarrassing” to host people at the garage. That’s where, in the absence of a real door, a cardboard sheet is used as the entry for the building’s bathroom stall.

With these problems in mind, the police commission laid out the main criteria for a new location.

Commission Member Jennifer Erickson recorded the main points, which include easy access to and from the department, location on a main street, visibility, ample space so all police activity can be housed in one location, room to expand, a site within one of the Villages or an annexed area, a site in a nonresidential area, being located outside of a flood zone and traffic flow.

The Commission agreed to take the search for a new location to the Village Boards of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac.

Police officials may tour the police departments in Baraboo, Middleton and Mount Horeb as the discussion continues.

“I want to make sure this site meets all our needs and we’re not just settling for a short term fix,” Strunz said.

You can reach Jake Ekdahl on Twitter @JakeaEkdahl or contact him at 608-697-6353


Juneau County Star-Times reporter

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