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Promises to police officers made good

By KATHY SAUNDERS
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 28, 2001

TREASURE ISLAND -- Two years ago, police officers complained about everything from work conditions to pensions. City leaders made promises, but officers were skeptical.

Not any more, says Chief Joseph Pelkington. The officers moved into a renovated police station this month, with more space, more privacy and more amenities to come.

Are the officers happy?

"Oh my God, yes," said Sgt. Tim Casey. His staff of four sergeants have new desks in a room decorated with blues and grays and windows to the rest of the station. Sgt. Casey and Chief Pelkington are still in temporary offices in the former chamber of commerce building while their new offices are being designed.

"The feeling a couple years ago was "Yeah, yeah nothing will ever happen,' " Pelkington said on a tour of the station Tuesday. Looking at the new surroundings, he said, "It's a big booster to morale."

The city is spending about $750,000 to renovate the police station and redecorate the adjoining fire station. The first portion of the project is nearly complete, with some final construction occurring on a new exercise room for all city employees. The gymnasium will have a private entrance for police officers and a separate one for other city employees. It also will have restrooms, showers and lockers.

The remodeled patrol and operations section includes two new rooms for interviewing, two cells for prisoners and a separate area to hold juveniles. The employee entrance also has a new patio for picnic tables and umbrellas. Still to come are new offices for the administration, as well as an enlarged front entrance and public waiting area.

In the past couple of years, the department has updated its equipment, added a K9 unit and installed computers in squad cars.

This week, the police and firefighters also will be joining the state's retirement plan. The city, which has to contribute more money to the new plan, used to leave it up to employees to manage their pension funds.

Pelkington said he wants the new station to reflect the improved attitude of his work force.

"I want it to be a friendly place," he said. He plans an open house to show off the station when the renovations are finished in January. He said he'll serve doughnuts.

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