DPD getting substation at Vowell’s

Published 6:43 pm Friday, May 4, 2012

The Demopolis Police Department will soon expand its base of operations following a vote by the city council Thursday to approve a lease agreement between DPD and Vowell’s Marketplace.

“Vowell’s Marketplace has agreed to give us a portion of their building to use as a police substation at no charge to the City of Demopolis,” Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie Reese said. “The only thing we would have to pay for is the phone line for phone service and computer needs”

The motion passed with a 5-1 vote. Councilman Mitchell Congress stood as the lone dissenter.

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The substation will go into the portion of the Vowell’s Marketplace building that formerly housed a Robertson Bank branch. According to Reese, the store will do some modifications to the space that will prevent police officers from having to utilize the grocery store entrance at no cost to the city. “Vowell’s sees this as a benefit to them by having the police substation on-site.

“It will allow us to have a secondary outlet somewhere in the city,” Reese said.

The department is currently somewhat hamstrung as its downtown location is separated from the bulk of the Demopolis business community that sits along U.S. Hwy. 80.

“Eighty-five percent of our business is on Highway 80,” Reese said. “This gives us better access to high traffic areas and visibility in that area.”

The Demopolis grocery store has been paying $2,000 a month to off-duty police officers to serve as security at the store. Those payments, which were filtered through the city, will cease once the substation is activated.

“We are fortunate that Vowell’s saw the benefit this substation could have to our city,” Reese said.

The timetable for getting the substation up and running has not yet been finalized, but Reese already has a keen sense of how to utilize the facility.

“Currently, my plan is to put a supervisor out there without an increase in the number of officers in the department,” Reese said. “Response time would be quicker because most of our calls are on the east and west Section of Highway 80.”

The idea is one that is patterned, at least in part, after police departments in Selma, Tuscaloosa and Meridian, Miss., each of which has at least one or two operational substations.

“It is nothing that is uncommon,” Reese said.

The substation, which will be well marked for the benefit of citizens and visitors, will also serve as an informational hub of sorts as Reese understands the need for police presence to assist as much as to enforce. Officers will be able to go in and do paperwork without having to always come downtown to police headquarters. It would also allow our citizens who don’t want to come downtown to the main office access to reports and other police needs.

“You’re going to have a commander there but, hopefully, you’ll have a secretary there for the public as well,” Reese said before noting his hope that the council will one day vote to allow either the substation or the primary station to be open 24 hours a day.

The lease agreement between Vowell’s and the DPD is for three years and is renewable at its conclusion.

“The biggest thing about it is that it’s no cost,” Reese added.