Council backs police facility renovation plans

By Patrick Wade

Ever since dangerous mold was found in the Champaign police evidence storage building, Champaign police have been dealing with lack of available space for evidence storage, inefficient methods for handling evidence and even health issues among its evidence staff.

The issue was brought before the Champaign City Council in a study session Tuesday night.

The mold has become a growing problem for Champaign police since its discovery in 2004.

In order to maintain the integrity of the evidence and the health of police staff, a large portion of the building had to be shut down, reducing available storage in the building from 4,000 square feet to 250 square feet. Prior attempts to remove the mold have been unsuccessful.

“That building is so old,” said Troy Daniels, Champaign deputy chief of police. “I think it was built at the turn of the (twentieth) century.”

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Daniels said that the mold probably started growing as a result of roof repairs which were made using old wood.

Champaign police have utilized its evidence storage area located in the main police facility and several temporary locations in the area.

However, these locations create problems such as a lack of a designated area for property return and inadequate ventilation of the drug storage area. In one location, evidence staff were even found to have been exposed to exhaust coming from nearby vehicle bays.

Even with the added temporary locations, the police department still falls 2,043 square feet short of the space required to sufficiently store its approximately 32,000 evidence items.

The solution to the problem, which was backed unanimously by the council, would solve evidence storage needs simply by remodeling existing facilities. The renovations, which would take place on the first and second floors of the main police facility, include plans for an expanded large evidence room, property return and bulk storage area on the first floor. Second floor remodeling plans intend to utilize an old locker room and adjacent bathrooms to help solve the storage problem.

The Champaign Police Department has already selected a local architectural firm for the project, and that firm has estimated the project at $908,360.

The old evidence building would be renovated for use as a force training facility at minimal remodeling costs.

Recently, legislation has increased the required time evidence must be held. Long-term storage is needed to retain DNA evidence for unsolved homicide and sexual assault cases. The plan would meet the projected space requirements for the next 10 years.

Daniels said that as long as the funding is provided on time, the construction should start sometime after July.