When Montgomery County police headquarters relocates from Rockville to the GE Technology Park in Gaithersburg this summer, the move will entail more than just occupying a newly-renovated building.
“There’s going to be a lot better communication,” said department spokesman Capt. Paul Starks. “Even up to the chief, he’ll easily be able to walk around and touch base with more of his management leadership than could physically fit in the headquarters that we’ve been in.”
With six floors and 354,000 square feet, the building at 100 Edison Park Drive will house nearly 1,000 employees from each of the county’s public safety departments except for corrections, said David Dise, director of the county’s Department of General Services. Employees will begin moving to the new location in early May, Dise added.
“The public safety headquarters will be the headquarters of the police department, the fire department, our office of emergency management and homeland security,” Dise said. “It will be, in fact, a fully functioning, exclusive public safety facility.”
Renovations to the building cost $20 million from the county’s Capital Improvements Program budget, Dise said.
“As 50-year-old buildings go, it’s in excellent condition but still needs some work,” he said. “It still needs about another $18 to $19 million to replace the external systems.”
The remaining cost for external and roof repairs and renovation is expected to be included in the next Capital Improvements Program budget currently awaiting approval by the county council, Dise said.
Most of the $20 million was spent building space for police-specific functions, like holding cells and processing areas, said Sandra Batterden, manager of the police department’s Capital Development and Facilities Section.
The top floor of the building was converted into laboratory space to serve as the forensic services wing, Batterden said.
“Any time you take conventional office space and try to convert it into a different use like a lab, you have a lot of exhaust and air pressure issues; you have to treat the floor; we have chemical-resistant countertops, emergency eyewashes,” she said. “That’s where most of the money went.”
Dise hopes to reduce the $23 million the county pays annually to lease building space for all county departments, including public safety.
The police department’s internal affairs division, an evidence storage facility and the traffic division will move into the new public safety headquarters from leased space, Batterden said.
Relocating the Rockville district station to the complex also frees up the station’s current site to be demolished, Dise said. A new jail will be constructed at that location in the next few years to replace the aging Montgomery County Detention Center on Seven Locks Road.
“MCDC is at least 40 years old and I’m spending about $3 million to stabilize that building so it can continue to be operational until the new Criminal Justice Center can be built, which will be about eight to 10 years,” Dise said.
Although county public safety personnel are excited to work in the new complex, not all of the details have been ironed out. Early in the project, planners determined the kitchen equipment at the old headquarters was too old to salvage and the money for a cafeteria was not available.
“In the interim we may be looking at food trucks or some brought-in operation if we can find a vendor,” she said. “But in the long term there will be close to a thousand people working in this building and it will be absolutely necessary to have some provision for food service in the building.”
Still, the relocation is a long time coming. The current police headquarters at 2350 Research Blvd. in Rockville — just less than 4 miles from the new site — is more than 40 years old, Starks said.