Room to roam, respond

Covert Township Fire Chief Doug Myers stands inside the new public safety complex’s two-story garage, which has five drive-through bays for fire and ambulance vehicles. The bays will provide easy access for the department’s two fire trucks, two ambulances, two grass fire trucks, two general purpose trucks and off-road ATV.

COVERT —For years, Covert Township police worked from a small, outdated station.

For the last 12 months they’ve worked from a tiny former bank branch.

But moving days are underway, and the force couldn’t be more pleased with the new public safety complex.

“We’re finally entering the 21st century,” Police Chief Jay Allen said.

Covert police officers and firefighters spent the week moving into the new $2.8 million building along M-140 and plan to unveil it to the public Saturday, April 29, during a 1-3 p.m. open house.

The 20,000-square-foot complex will replace the former 69-year-old police station, which was torn down last year, as well as the fire department’s 55-year-old building along M-140. The public safety building is funded by the millage earmarked for the fire and police departments.

The new complex can be described as two buildings in one. Fire and ambulance personnel will occupy the north side of the building while police will occupy the south portion. A front lobby and the training and conference room connect the two departments.

Fire Chief Doug Myers said the new complex is sorely needed.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Myers said. “We’re stuffed in that station.”

The five drive-through bays in the new complex are a far cry from the two bays the fire department has been using to house its fire trucks and ambulances.

“Right now if we get a call for one ambulance and then get a call for a second ambulance, we have to move a truck to get the second ambulance out. That takes up (response) time,” Myers said.

The fire department lacked space for training drills that firefighters undergo on a regular basis.

“We always had to go off-site,” he said.

One side of the two-story bay area has been set aside for fire-and-rescue training drills. There is an indoor conference room that police officers and firefighters can use for certification classes and training seminars, while the basement will house an exercise room and storage space for both departments.

“We had no storage space in the old police station,” Allen said. “You’d have to climb on boxes and around them to get to old reports. ... Our locker room doubled as a public restroom.”

Police had to resort to using a countertop in the kitchen to fingerprint items.

That won’t be the case in the new building. The new station has an evidence storage room, a large room for officers to file and store reports, interview rooms and a training area in the basement.

The police department is making an office available to Van Buren Circuit Court for one of its alternative court programs. And Covert police plan to let other police agencies use a highly secure room to interview subjects.

“It’s a very secure room with deadening walls,” Allen said. “It can save police agencies (in western Van Buren County) from making a trip to Paw Paw.”

Allen said he also hopes to make the training facilities at the new complex available to other law enforcement groups.

“We’re hoping to build cooperation for multiple jurisdictions,” he said.