Madison Police Capt. Jay Lengfeld is breathing a sigh of relief now that the city’s sixth police station is up and running after more than four years of planning.
“The pressure is off. It’s open right now,” Lengfeld said.
Lengfeld has a last-minute list of tasks that need to be completed at the new building — landscaping, fixing lighting and acquiring more chairs — but the station at Mineral Point Drive and Westmorland Boulevard is functioning.
The approximately $10.5 million facility is located at the site of the former Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 4020 Mineral Point Rd. The city bought the lot in March 2014 with the intention of creating a new district to relieve pressures on existing stations, particularly the south and west districts.
Funding for the construction and operation of Midtown was a major roadblock between Mayor Paul Soglin and the City Council during debate over the 2017 budget.
Soglin wanted to push construction on the new station to 2018 and did not include funds to operate Midtown in his 2017 budget. Alders amended the budget and included construction and operating funds.
Police officers based out of the Midtown District will respond to areas in the near west side of Madison, including parts of the UW-Madison campus, Camp Randall Stadium, West and Memorial high schools, Edgewood college and high school and UW and St. Mary’s hospitals.
“As the city of Madison continues to increase in population and expand its geographic boundaries, the Midtown station is an absolute necessity of the south and west district stations,” South District Capt. Paige Valenta said. “Those police stations were at capacity in terms of workload and the ability to actually accommodate officers in stations.”
Valenta is also looking ahead to when the city of Madison annexes the town of Madison in 2022. At that time, the MPD will absorb public safety personnel from the town.
“In terms of long term growth strategy, Midtown was an absolute necessity,” Valenta said.
With an additional district, the workload on Madison’s west side will be divided among smaller areas. Midtown will have its own community policing team, mental health officer and gang officer.
“The whole idea for us is the more we get involved with the community, the better it is for everybody and you do that by having smaller units working in smaller geographic areas,” Lengfeld said.
The new building incorporates images from the surrounding neighborhood, including stained glass and a birdbath from Mount Olive Lutheran Church and artwork by area children. Officers also re-purposed wood boards to create a table top for their break room. A public open house is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 18.
West District Capt. Cory Nelson said the additional community policing team will help proactively address traffic problems and theft from cars, a growing challenge for officers.
Prior to Midtown, the West District included about 55 neighborhood associations, which would often request officers at meetings. With the divided labor, Nelson said the MPD can manage specific neighborhood safety more effectively.
Nelson is also hopeful the Midtown District will minimize the West District’s overwhelming report queue, a compilation of daily reports from officers that would need to be reviewed. Nelson said going through the reports to determine next steps would take up to 14 hours.
The additional station means more space for the current West District station at 1710 McKenna Blvd. Nelson said about 90 people were working out of the building when the station was built to house 50.
“This will give our officers a little breathing room and will allow employees to park in their own parking lot,” Nelson said.