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story.lead_photo.caption Bentonville Police Sign. (TRACY M. NEAL)

BENTONVILLE -- The city is one step closer to getting its new emergency call center after the Planning Commission approved Tuesday development plans for it.

City officials recognized the Police Department's need for a "weather hardened" emergency communication center after the ice storm of 2008, said Mayor Bob McCaslin.

Commission action

Bentonville’s Planning Commission met Tuesday and approved:

• Lot split at 709 S.W. O St.

• A property line adjustment at 1602 S.E. J St.

• A plan amendment on Arkansas 72 from residential estate to low-density residential.

• A permit for Grace Hills Church, 805 S.E. 22nd St., and the Bentonville Film Festival.

• Plans for Word of Life parking expansion, 808 S.W. 14th St., J Street Warehouse parking, 2608 S.E. J St. and Gateway Park Warehouse 6, 908 S.E. 14th St.

Source: Staff report

"It was very obvious that we needed to be better prepared than we were then in case of a real disaster," McCaslin said Tuesday afternoon.

Weather-hardened buildings are resistant to any type of violent weather such as ice, tornadoes, strong wind or hail, officials said. It would ensure the center could still operate if the city were hit by a natural disaster.

Planning commissioners approved 6-0 the center's plans at their Tuesday meeting. Commissioner Tregg Brown was absent.

The 23,300-square-foot building will be built on the southeast corner of the Police Department's lot at 908 S.E. 14th St.

It will serve as a dispatch center and an emergency operations center, and will provide space for the Criminal Investigation Division and include a multi-use space that could be used for vehicle storage and training, according to Police Chief Jon Simpson, who approached City Council to hire an architect for the building last year.

The police dispatch center also is the initial contact for fire and emergency medical services.

The building also will provide the Police Department with much-needed space. Its current station opened in 1995 with space for 50 employees, McCaslin said.

The department now has 110 employees, said Gene Page, community relations officer.

"We've turned every closet into an office," he said. "We're bursting at the seams."

The department's call volume has also increased as the city has grown.

Police calls for service totaled about 59,000 in 2017, 57,000 in 2016 and 53,000 in 2015, according to Page.

The city's population grew from 35,300 in 2010 to an estimated 47,000 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Several areas within the police station will be renovated once the new center is open to better accommodate the patrol and operations divisions of the Police Department, officials said.

The center is anticipated to cost around $8 million. The city has about $2.7 million remaining in the bond issue for the Police Department as well as other money it set aside annually for the project, McCaslin said.

"We've been anticipating this for a number of years," he said. "We've been fortunate in that we can pay cash for the building."

Construction is expected to take a year, weather permitting, Page said.

Commissioners also approved a permit for the Bentonville Film Festival, which will be May 1-6.

There will be two Cinetransformers instead of three, according to the permit application. A Cinetransformer is a 53-foot-long expandable double trailer that transforms into a 91-seat theater.

Skylight Cinema was added to venues where films will be screened.

NW News on 03/07/2018

Print Headline: Commission OKs emergency call center plans

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