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To demolish or remodel the Jal Police Dept.?

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To demolish or remodel the Jal Police Dept.?

Christina Holt/News-Sun

Despite the “deplorable state” of the Jal’s Police Department, residents — particularly those who live behind it — don’t want to see the historic El Paso Natural Gas building torn down.

The City of Jal held three public meetings for community members to tour the JPD recently so they could get a better understanding the building’s condition.

“I love its history and would love to see it saved,” Jal historian Brian Norwood said, but Monday evening’s tour was “eye opening. It’s in worse shape than I expected.”

Jal City Manager Wes Hooper gave tours of the historic building to Jal residents, city council members and city employees. A total of about 20 people attended the two Monday meetings.

The City of Jal is considering what to do with the building.

According Hooper the options are:

• Remodel the historic building for the JPD

• Remodel to lease it to a business

• Demolish and rebuild for the JPD

• Demolish and rebuild to lease to a business

Whichever option is chosen, JPD will need to be moved to do any kind of work. The plan is to temporarily move JPD to the old junior high school, according to Jal City Councilman Fred Seifts.

The appearance of the outside of the building looks fine and the portion of the building in use has been remodeled some, but digging deeper, the repairs needed are quite extensive, according to Jal City Councilman Fred Seifts.

There are two buildings associated with the historic EPNG building, but only the front is occupied and the back is vacant. Currently, the police department, courts and dispatch occupy the front building.

EPNG built the first part of the building — the back — in 1946 and the last of it was completed in 1953, according to Norwood.

Those touring the front building could see large cracks in the ceiling tiles, missing ceiling tiles, worn out carpet and a cracked foundation in the jail cells.

Upon touring the vacant building, broken windows could be seen as well as, missing and broken ceiling tiles, holes in the wall and water damage.

“There is a water leak somewhere under the concrete foundation,” Seifts said.

He is concerned about trying to repair the foundation and the plumbing issues as well as the asbestos abatement that would need to be done to the back building.

“The pipes are probably very old that were put in during the 40’s and 50’s,” Norwood said.

Norwood also said there might be lead paint based on the time period the building was constructed.

“It could cost a lot to get it to be usable by the public,” he said.

Not only do both buildings need repair, but the courtroom is too small and there is inadequate security, according to Hooper.

There are two jail cells JPD uses and according to Jal Chief of Police Mauricio Valeriano. It is adequate space but needs to be updated for better security and protection.

“Having a building that is designed for the police department is better for the safety of those in the building and those being held,” Valeriano said.

The actual police department consists of three rooms out of the entire building for nine officers, including the chief, two supervisors and six officers, he said.

Mary Ruth Pruett, who lives behind JPD and attended the tour Monday morning, is concerned about a business being located in front of her residence and the traffic that is on Hwy. 18. But she agrees something needs to be done about the state of the building.

“I like the police department on Hwy. 18 because of the traffic,” Pruett said. “Our police department is good.”

Helen McNeese, who also lives behind JPD and attended the tour Monday morning, doesn’t want the building torn down — nor does she want the department to move.

“(The City of Jal) has not maintained it like they should have, and now they want to tear it down,” McNeese said. “I don’t want this torn down. It’s a historical building. I think the police department needs to stay right here because of the traffic on Hwy. 18.”

The building was given to the City of Jal for economic purposes but the city did not pursue it.

In the 1990’s, JPD moved from City Hall into the historic EPNG building, according to Norwood.

“It’s a big, big part of Jal’s history but sadly history can’t always be saved,” Norwood said.

Norwood also lives behind JPD and attended the public meeting Monday evening.

“JPD have been good neighbors. It’s nice having the police department there, but I understand the need to do something with the area,” Norwood said.

Seifts was happy to see residents attend the public meetings because they got a better idea of the condition of the building and why the city is pursuing the options of what to do with it.

“(The City of Jal) is getting numbers put together. The remodel may be higher than to demo and rebuild,” Seifts said.

Seifts wants to encourage the community and residents to participate in the meetings because city council members get tasked with making big decisions and need input from them.

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