FERNDALE - Seven years ago, it became official: The police station was a failure.
The Ferndale Police Department could not get its seal of approval from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs - the state's accrediting body - largely because of the shortcomings of the station at Third Avenue and Alder Street.
Police records were not secured, computer servers were behind an unlocked door, and evidence and stolen property were exposed to the elements.
"Visitors and personnel could be subject to violence ... from those that would do harm to us because the building was very open and unprotected," Police Chief Michael Knapp said of the former station.
Bad reviews of Ferndale law enforcement re-ignited an effort to build a new police station, which was completed this summer and will be celebrated with a grand opening and tours on Thursday, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 29.
As Knapp walked the new building at 2220 Main St. last week, he made it sound like those who drew up the new station thought of everything. There are private rooms to conduct sensitive interviews of victims. The interrogation room has one-way glass, and lightweight chairs so detectives won't be injured if one is thrown at them.
The walls to the lobby are shielded with Kevlar that can stop the largest handgun round. The computer room now has a lock.
The cramped "temporary" station, which the department used for more than 20 years, had none of those features. Crime victims had to provide personal details in front of whoever happened to be in the squad room. Suspected drunks had their breath tested in a closet next to the water heater.
"This isn't simply updating a facility," Knapp said. "This was the creation of a whole new paradigm for this department."
With a few small items left to be done last week, the police station, remodeled from the former city library, cost the city $6 million for everything, including engineering and the architect. Construction alone cost $2.83 million.
"We had the advantage of building this facility at a time when the costs for construction were considerably reduced," Knapp said.
Some fiscal conservatives on the City Council had reservations about the station's price tag, especially since the city was already paying debt on such projects as Pioneer Pavilion, the library, and Church Road improvements. The council approved two bonds for the new station, totaling $5.425 million. The city will pay $409,293 on the bonds this year, with the payment rising to more than $460,000 by 2014.
Of the two members who voted against the second of the two bonds in 2011, Lloyd Zimmerman is still on the council.
"I never expected Ferndale was going to get a Cadillac police station, but this is a Rolls Royce," Zimmerman said in an interview last week. "We've got a lot to be proud of, but it costs money."
Zimmerman said he anticipates yet another round of belt-tightening when next year's budget is written. Paying off the police station could prevent the city from making another important purchase, he said.
He pointed to possible future expenses, including a water-softening system for the water treatment plant.
"It's just like anything else," he said. "If you spend it on one thing, you can't spend it on another."
Mayor Gary Jensen, whose father, former Police Chief Lorne Jensen, will have the station's emergency operations center named after him, said the new station isn't a luxury. The mayor didn't want the city to make the same mistake it made with the former library, which wasn't built to allow for expansion.
"We've got the space, bond interest rates are down, so let's do something that's a 25- or 30-year investment," Jensen said, recalling the rationale for the new police station. "For what we have for a five-plus million dollar price tag, that's a good building."
The city will save on what it costs to train a new officer - about $80,000 - as the new station draws experienced officers away from other departments, Jensen said. It recently hired two officers, from Blaine and from Oregon.
Chief Knapp said the station will enable his department to obtain that prized accreditation from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. The department will start fulfilling those requirements early next year, he said.
"I don't think that's going to be a problem for us," he said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The total cost of the new Ferndale police station was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.
What: Flag raising and tours of Ferndale's new police station.
When: Flag raising at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27. Tours are 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29.
Where: 2220 Main St.
Parking: Limited to people with disabilities. Other people can take a shuttle Thursday from the ConocoPhillips Sports Complex at the south end of Second Avenue, and Saturday from City Hall, 2095 Main St.
More information: cityofferndale.org.