When South Strabane Township police Chief Don Zofchak joined the department in the early 1970s, the officers worked out of a tiny room at the front of the current township building off Washington Road.
Back then, the township was mostly rural with a few neighborhoods, retailers (like Kmart and Washington Mall), as well as a few industries.
Fast forward four decades, and the township is now home to thousands who live in housing plans that dot the landscape, as well as becoming a destination for those who shop at three major shopping centers.
Now, the police department has a new station designed to accommodate the needs created by the township’s growth. The department moved last month from the station it occupied at the rear of the township building for about 25 years to the new 6,000-square-foot, freestanding building.
Working with Ralph Sterzinger of RSSC Architecture, Zofchak and several members of the department worked to develop a new station that would meet not only the department’s current needs but also allow for growth.
“I have to give Sterzinger a lot of credit,” Zofchak said. “We gave him the square footage, and he came up with a plan that we tweaked to fit our needs.”
Zofchak said Sterzinger had previous experience in designing police stations.
“There is a flow to the building,” Zofchak said Monday. “Every police department is different. Ours responds to a lot of retail theft arrests that require the suspects to be detained and arraigned or released.”
An officer enters the building to start his shift from the lower level off the parking lot. There, he can change in the locker room before heading up to the main floor.
Zofchak said the locker room was designed to allow for an increase in manpower in the department. There are 16 full-time officers, including the chief, and three part-time officers. There also is a women’s locker room. At present, the department does not have any female officers.
Near the locker rooms is an exercise room with equipment such as a weight machine and treadmill that officers can use when off duty.
Also on the lower level are rooms to store files and evidence.
There also is one garage bay to hold a cruiser. The remaining police cars are kept under a carport near the main entrance to the building.
The patrol room has stations for four officers. The sergeants and detectives have separate rooms off the main patrol room.
In the hallway leading to the exit door, there is an equipment room where officers keep their duty bags that they grab before heading out to their patrol cars. The room also has chargers for radios and flashlights.
If an officer has a prisoner, he drives into a sally port.
“The door to the sally port has to be closed before the door to the prisoner detention area will open,” Zofchak said. “At no point is there a need for the prisoner to actually enter the patrol area of the station.”
Security also is improved. A fob is needed to open virtually every door in the building, and there is security glass throughout. There are also security cameras on both the inside and outside of the building.
“Safety was a big issue for us,” Zofchak noted.
The building also is energy efficient, with lights turning on only when someone is in a room. It is equipped with an emergency generator powered by natural gas.
The price tag to build the new station was $2.5 million, including the cost of site preparation, furnishings and the new telephone system, said township manager John Stickle. Widmer Engineers also assisted with the project. R.S. Stewart Contractors was the general contractor.
“I have to give the designer and supervisors credit,” Zofchak said. “This is a very functional building.”
The building will be dedicated during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday, followed by an open house until 6 p.m.