Volunteers turning old VFW into community center, police precinct
by James Phillips
Mar 12, 2012 | 1364 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two volunteers from the Mennonite Disaster Service work to remodel a room in what will be a community center and police department for Cordova.  Photo by: James Phillips
Two volunteers from the Mennonite Disaster Service work to remodel a room in what will be a community center and police department for Cordova. Photo by: James Phillips
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CORDOVA – With the help of volunteers from as far away as upstate New York and Canada, Cordova police will soon have a new headquarters, the largest in the department’s history.

Cordova Police Chief Kenneth Bobo said the city’s police department has bounced around from building to building for years.

“When I got here the police department was in an 8 by 12 foot metal building,” he said. “That’s why moving into this spot is so exciting for us.”

Bobo said the new police department facility will include a secure area for dispatchers, interview rooms, a conference room and a secure evidence area. He said the building will allow the police department to serve as a headquarters for any type of major crime that could happen in the city.

“We are a small city, but we have the same crimes as anywhere,” Bobo said. “The murder that happened in Cordova earlier this year is an example of that. We had many different law enforcement agencies helping us on that, and we didn’t really have a place in town where we could all gather up. This building will allow our police department to be the hub for any investigation involving a crime in our area.”

Bobo said the new police department should be ready for his force to move into within two weeks. With the help of the Walker County Long Term Recovery Committee and volunteer work being done by various groups, the new facility will be finished without using any taxpayer funds.

A Methodist group of volunteers spent days last week painting the outside of the building, which most Cordova residents call the old VFW but is technically the Cordova Activity Center. The police department will take up almost half the building while the other half will be used as a community center and office space for the LTRC.

A group of volunteers from the Mennonite Disaster Service is constructing the inside of the building. Neil Martens, one of the group’s leaders, said a team of eight is currently working at the Cordova site.

“This is a little different from what we are used to doing,” said Martens, a Manitoba, Canada resident. “We usually work on individual homes for people who do not have insurance, are underinsured or are handicap. We took on this job because this city lost so much, and the police department is very important to public safety.”

The Cordova Police Department is currently located in a single-wide trailer after its most recent location was destroyed in last April’s tornadoes. Bobo said the department needed to be moved before severe weather hit again.

“We didn’t know if that would be a possibility,” he said. “We are so thankful for all the help we are receiving. This wouldn’t be possible without all this help. This building is concrete and will be a safe place.”

Martens said the old VFW Building would be ready to serve as a polling place in Tuesday’s election.

“It won’t be completely finished, but it will be ready to use for the election,” he said.

Martens said Mennonite volunteers have been warmly welcomed in Cordova and other areas of Walker County.

“We enjoy doing this,” he said. “The people here have been very friendly, and they are so appreciative of the work we are doing.”

Bobo said the old VFW will be a temporary police station, estimating the Cordova PD will use the facility for two to five years.

“We are working on a federal grant that would give us a state-of-the-art police station,” he said.

The grant process would take at least two years to finish, Bobo said. He added the future facility would be designed to house the city’s police and fire departments.

“There would be a lot of common space that we could both use,” Bobo said. “That would cut down on costs.”