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USDA Grant Funds Benefit Price, Helper Police Departments

Sun Advocate reporter

New evidence lockers are among the improvements that Price city police officers will enjoy at the agency's new headquarters in north Price. Many of the expenses of renovation and new equipment were met by a pair of grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a grant from the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board. The department has been in the new facility for approximately one month.

Within six months of receiving grant funds from the United States Department of Agriculture, Price and Helper police departments are enjoying new benefits funded in part by the federal agency.

In addition to federal monies, both agencies also used funds awarded by the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board and some local funds.

Last October, mayors and USDA officials finalized paperwork allowing the two cities to move forward with public safety improvements.

The Price city police department recently began operations at its new facility at 900 North and 700 East in Price, a building used previously by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The new facility is more spacious and provides more features than were available at the police station at 200 East and 100 North.

Renovation costs were covered primarily by two grants.

The CIB awarded the city with $450,000 and the USDA awarded $100,000.

An additional $100,000 for Price will cover various miscellaneous expenses including two patrol vehicles, law enforcement weapons, evidence lockers and a traffic control speed monitor.

An additional $74,000 will come from state funding sources, with at least $54,000 being allocated from city funds.

When Chief Aleck Shilaos provided the Sun Advocate with a tour, he recognized the added space as one of the most notable features of the new facility.

In the front of the building, two receptionists that were previously crammed into a space share a much larger area.

Behind the receptionists, the chief enjoys an office nearly double the size of that provided previously.

While the facility also provides offices for the force's detective and captain, those who have experienced a more dramatic change in environment are the sergeants and lower officers in the department.

A space in the basement of the former police headquarters formed a dark, crowded area for the desks of the average officer.

Two sergeants now share an office with one of the largest outside views.

The rest of the force shares a space less crowded and better lit than before.

In the center of the building, a conference room doubles as a break room, larger than any room that the department had available for meetings before.

Police Chief George Zamantakis inspects a vehicle recently purchased by Helper City. Four cars were purchased using primarily grant monies. The purchase updates an aging fleet of vehicles and addresses a handful of issues that the department faced with the older vehicles.

Shilaos said that, despite the added room, it's still somewhat crowded when the entire department meets.

However, officers on break will now have a space away from their desks when they need to step away from their work.

The basement of the new department headquarters will be closed to public access.

Shilaos explained that it was mostly used for storage and limited operational purposes.

The evidence room is located in the basement. The chief explained that one of the new features in the department is a system of storage lockers for evidence deposit and logging.

The lockers are situated within a wall.

On one side, the evidence room is accessible by a limited set of authorized personnel.

Opposite the evidence room, another area is accessible by all members of the force.

The lockers vary in size from the smallest with a door measuring about eight inches by 10 inches, to the largest, with an door measuring about two feet by three feet.

Most items that police officers need to log into evidence will fit into any of the lockers. From the outside, the lockers can be locked after evidence is deposited. The locks cannot be reopened from the from after they are locked. Instead, authorized personnel must retrieve evidence from within the evidence room. Using the system officers can securely deposit evidence after hours and maintain a clearly defined chain of possession.

Behind the police station, various structures remain largely as they were left by the federal agencies that used them last. Plans for those facilities are still unclear. However, Shilaos indicated that the city was planning to improve the buildings closest to the office and that the overall look of the surrounding area would improve as the city finished remodeling the building facility.

In Helper, police have used USDA and CIB grant funds to purchase four new police vehicles for the department. Prior to the purchase, the department had last updated its fleet in 2001.

Helper Police Chief George Zamantakis said that the vehicles are all 2006 Ford Crown Victorias. The CIB awarded more than $45,000 toward the vehicle upgrades and the USDA awarded a grant of $55,000.

The purchase helps resolve an ongoing expense the department had incurred with the aging fleet of mostly Chevrolet Luminas. In recent years, electronic devices used by officers have increased. Vehicles are equipped with computers, printers, radios and other communications and reporting devices in addition to the sirens and roof-mounted lights.

At a routine traffic stop, when the car is idling, all of the devices are regularly used. Zamantakis said the electrical output of the alternators on many of the older vehicles was not high enough to supply all of the devices. Due to the added draw on the vehicle's power supply, the city was replacing alternators more frequently than normal.

The new Fords purchased by the department dramatically reduce one of the electrical requirements of the vehicles. Rooftop lights have been replaced with LED bars in the rear window and on the side view mirrors and front bumper.

The LEDs draw much less power, last longer, and produce more light for each watt of power consumed. The result is that more power is available for other devices and the wear on the vehicle's alternator is reduced.

Cosmetically, the new vehicles are less visible that the older cars. A single badge just forward of the driver and front passenger doors identifies the vehicle in addition to letters on the trunk. Instead of being white, the new vehicles are a metallic gray.

Last month, Helper Mayor Mike Dalpiaz said in a city council meeting that the intent was not solely to camouflage the vehicles. The lack of rooftop lights and subtle markings may make the community safer, allowing officers to be somewhat less noticeable when necessary.

Dalpiaz also addressed concerns voiced by citizens regarding the expenditure to the city. Last week, he reminded residents that the new additions to the fleet are completely funded by grants.

Zamantakis reiterated that statement last week, stating that the vehicles will note create any additional costs to taxpayers in the city. He added that at least one of the previous vehicles will be purchased by a police department in Arkansas, which has purchased the vehicle as a spare after one vehicle was taken out of service.

Last week, the police chief reported that two vehicles were in service. A third was scheduled to be available this week, with the fourth becoming available for use later this week or next week.

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