By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — After a six-and-a-half-year process, an executed deed for the Smalley Army Reserve Center was received from the Corps of Engineers and filed with the Cleveland County Clerk last week.
When the process began in April 2006, the Department of Defense decided to close the Smalley ARC, and the Army Reserve planned to move to a new facility on Tecumseh Road.
After the new facility was built, the Reserve moved out of the Smalley ARC in December 2010. At that point, the city of Norman took possession of the facility. Almost two years after that, the deed was finally executed.
The reason the process of getting the deed took so long was because the Army and Corp. of Engineers had to find all of the paperwork for the facility, said Linda Price, with the city of Norman’s Office of Planning and Community Development.
“We didn’t have the deed, so we couldn’t do anything without owning the property,” Price said.
When the decision to relocate the Army Reserve was made, a committee was formed to decide who the best candidate would be to take over the property.
Norman Police Department Cpt. Tom Easley said at the time, he remembers the police and fire department, Norman Public Schools and a day care interested in the facility.
“One of the key selling points was the benefits to the department of a place to hold and maintain evidence and other property associated with investigations with the department,” Easley said.
He said he believed the fire department had a similar problem: not enough space.
“We thought at the time, this would help kill two birds with one stone. I think that was key in getting the bid,” he said.
The building will eventually be used for police and fire investigations, a crime lab, evidence storage and other related police activities.
Another bonus, aside from more storage, is the garage at the facility. Easley said they frequently have vehicles associated with crimes that have to be processed. Currently, that process has to take place under an overhang outside of the police department, no matter what the weather is like.
“There, you can pull it into a secure facility and be out of the elements entirely,” he said.
A weapons locker at the old military facility also will provide a highly secure place to store weapons, he said.
One other thing they are looking forward to is more office space, Easley said. Since the bid for the facility was won, they have been steadily increasing personnel with the Public Safety Sales Tax, which has become more problematic.
However, the Smalley ARC building should help with those problems.
“It’s probably bigger than the entire police department is now,” he said.
The facility has just more than 32,000 square feet. The only drawback may be separation of the two operations.
“We’ll make sure there’s good communications between patrol operations and investigations, though,” Easley said.
Between email and phones, communications will be maintained and police officers will be able to come and go just as easily as they can at the police station, he said.
The next step is the bidding process for the building rehabilitation.
“There’s going to have to be some rehabilitation renovation to meet our needs,” Easley said.
Price said nobody knows when that bidding process will actually take place “at this stage of the game.”
Specifications for the bid would need to be discussed and finalized first. Another thing to take into consideration is that under the PSST, they will have to wait, Price said.
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