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Durango Police Department won’t fit at River City Hall

City considers swap of downtown fire station and 9-R administration building
The city announced in a news release late afternoon on Friday that the River City Hall site was “deemed not feasible” as a site for a joint police and fire facility. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

While a lot of work must still be done in the city of Durango’s and the Durango Fire Protection District’s exploration of a new and improved fire station at River City Hall, Durango Police Department is out of the picture.

The city announced in a news release late afternoon on Friday that the River City Hall site was “deemed not feasible” as a site for a joint police and fire facility.

Since August, the city and fire district have been formally reviewing the River City Hall site at 1235 Camino del Rio for its potential as a joint police and fire facility. The fire district’s Station 2 is already located at River City Hall along with the city’s community development department, but it’s cramped and outdated and in need of serious improvements.

The release says development costs for a joint facility are much higher than expected, the site’s lot size is not adequate for two emergency responder departments, and having police and fire at the location would disrupt surrounding businesses, intrude on Iris Park and interfere with the Camino underpass project.

Although the police department is no longer a part of the River City Hall conversation, Fire Chief Hal Doughty still considers the site the best location for a downtown fire station.

“The fire chief and I realized the River City Hall site lot size is inadequate to cost-effectively build a fire station and police station without encroaching on other uses in the area and would not improve access to the Animas River,” José Madrigal, city manager, says in the release. “This does not mean that development of this site cannot happen. The fire district still believes the site is the best option for a new fire station.”

The Durango Herald attempted to reach Doughty for comment on Saturday but was unsuccessful.

Firefighters’ bunker gear and other items are stored in the bay with emergency vehicles that are exposing the gear to exhaust fumes at Durango Fire Protection District Station 2 attached to River City Hall. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Bob Brammer, Durango police chief, said on Saturday that concepts of a joint police and fire station at River City Hall looked great on paper, but in reality the site is simply too small to house both agencies.

He said the police department is in “dire need” of a new facility. Durango is a growing city and DPD is currently unable to match that growth. It needs more space to store vehicles and expand the department to keep up with the city’s service needs.

“We need it and we’ll continue to explore it,” he said. “... We’ll find a place that’s going to be accessible to the public, that’s going to allow us to best serve the community from wherever that location is. It’s going to be modern and it’s going to have all the new things that we need to match policing in the 21st century.”

The police department, currently headquartered at 990 East Second Ave., might still have an opportunity to move into a facility better suited for its needs. The release says the city is searching for new options to house DPD, its community development department and City Hall staff.

The Durango School District 9-R Administration Building at 201 E. 12th St., which was purchased from the school district by DFPD in December 2021, is one location on the city’s radar. The release says a swap of River City Hall for the administration building between the city and the fire district might even be possible, although nothing’s been decided.

“It is just an option to determine if the City Council would like to explore at this point,” Madrigal says in the release.

The city has for decades eyed the administration building as a possible location to consolidate the police department, community development and other city offices and amenities, with reference to the concept dating as far back as 1994 in a master facility program, the release says.

Durango School District 9-R sold its administration building at 201 E. 12th St. to Durango Fire Protection District in December 2021. Now, the city of Durango is interested in potentially trading ownership of its River City Hall property, where the downtown fire station resides, for the administration building in hopes of consolidating the police department and other city offices there. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Before any movement can be made, the fire district would need to divest itself of the administration building (and the attached Big Picture High School), the release says.

A joint study session where estimated prices, project schematics and next steps between Durango City Council and DFPD is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday (Jan. 19).

Meeting materials say possible next steps include: negotiation for a possible swap of River City Hall and the administration building; more exploration by the city on consolidating offices in the administration building; scheduling public input meetings and setting up a joint meeting in March for another progress update and planning session.


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