23 Aug AiroAV Antivirus Review: State troopers eager to move into state-of-the-art station
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Members of Pennsylvania State Police Troop A can take pride in knowing that theirs is the only remaining original troop of four that were established with creation of the state police force in 1905.
Soon, the Greensburg-based troop will have another point of pride — a new, state-of-the art station next to its present home on Westmoreland Avenue.
“Hands down, it’s going to be the nicest State Police barracks in the state,” said Lt. Steven Paraska, station commander who has been overseeing the project.
Tuesday is the “go live” date for the troop to begin dispatching out of the new facility, “knock on wood,” Paraska said.
“Tuesday, they’ll cut the data and phone lines from the old building and transfer them,” he said. “I’m hoping the midnight shift on Tuesday will be going live.”
During the transfer process, calls will be routed through the Kiski station, he said.
The 35,000-square-foot facility will give the troop room to spread out. The present station, dating to 1957, is less than half that size at 15,000 square feet.
It also will consolidate under one roof some offices that are in outlying buildings.
“We outgrew it a long time ago,” Paraska said. “Actually, it looks like they outgrew this building the day they moved in.”
Troop A originally was quartered on the site of what is now Mt. Odin Park Golf Course in Greensburg. Its horse barns were 2½ miles away at what is now Lynch Field — quite a trek in 1905, Paraska noted.
The troop moved to Westmoreland Avenue in 1913. The new facility will be its third station on the site, familiar to community members who have been there to take driver’s license tests.
Things have changed
Things certainly have changed over the years, said Paraska, who is an informal troop historian. Old photos line the walls and shelves of his office, old rosters are stored in drawers and the closet holds other collectibles, including an old bubble light that formerly topped a patrol car.
Present-day troopers in Greensburg, numbering 115 in various specialized units, have had to make do in a space that housed about 53 during the 1950s.
“It was run like the military, so things had to be simple,” Paraska said.
Offices in the 1957 building originally were dorm rooms for the troopers, all single men, who were required to live there. A community shower room has been converted to use as an armory. There was a small kitchen adjacent to a dining area that now serves as a classroom.
“The 1956 roster listed a senior cook and two waitresses,” Paraska said.
Ground was broken in September 2018 for the new $18 million station, which will provide much-needed elbow room in a number of areas. The project also includes renovation of an existing garage.
The station’s layout includes a larger communications room for dispatchers, an extra processing room and more classroom space. It also will consolidate offices that have been relegated to temporary quarters around the site.
Troopers will be able to bring prisoners in through a secure sally port, another feature lacking in the old station.
They’ll also be working in comfort, thanks to having 12 bathrooms instead of two, and having a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, computerized heating and cooling system.
“Our old boiler system is so antiquated that you can’t regulate the heat,” Paraska said. “It’s so hot in the winter that guys have to run the AC.”
Utility and aesthetics
The new station has a brick-masonry exterior, a thermoplastic roof and a special resin-faced concrete block interior, said Jesse Auker, project manager for the construction company, Leonard S. Fiore Inc. of Altoona. The interior block, exterior doors and glass are ballistic-rated for safety.
“You have about 10 layers of glass probably 6 inches thick at the entrance doors,” he said.
The design blends utility with aesthetics, said architect Elijah Dolly of Buchart Horn Inc., a York-based architectural and engineering firm with a Pittsburgh office.
The interior incorporates modern industrial-style design features like exposed wiring and conduit.
“I wasn’t a fan of that at first, but now I think it looks pretty good,” Paraska said — noting the irony of the old station also having exposed wiring, due to being retrofitted through the years to accommodate more telephones and computers.
“It’s a very interesting project,” Dolly said. “We do a lot of state and civic projects, so this is not our first police barracks. We understood that the building needed to be a robust construction, so it would last a while, and also be low-maintenance, easily cleaned and very durable.
“Safety is a very big concern, obviously, but we wanted a balance of maintaining safety with opening up the building where we could,” he said.
The public entrance opens into a soaring atrium topped by a skylight, which Dolly said accomplishes that purpose.
“The atrium is a pivot point for the public coming into the building, to make it a little more welcoming,” he says.
Opposite the atrium is a curved glass wall fronting a gathering space that opens onto a shaded terrace.
Paraska said the atrium was another feature he had to be sold on, initially thinking it was a waste of money. But like the industrial design elements, it counteracts the institutional feel of the rest of the structure.
The new station stands a stone’s throw from the old structure, which will be torn down to accommodate more parking.
“The plan collects and consolidates all the sheds and shacks on the site more efficiently,” Dolly said. “It cleans up the site and provides a nice facility that will last for a long time.”
The construction itself offered a number of challenges, Auker said.
“It’s a lot easier to build a new building on a new piece of land,” he said. “On this one, you had to phase it in to keep everything still working.”
Workers and machinery also have had to maneuver around an active firing range and patrol cars going in and out, Auker said.
The project, including demolition of the old station and subsequent landscaping and hardscaping, is scheduled for completion in the fall. Transfer of furniture from the old structure to the new started July 20.
“We had 45 dry days and of course it started to rain when we started to move furniture,” Paraska said. “But everything has been going well.
“There have been a few hiccups,” he said. “If you’ve ever moved, you know it’s not fun. Now think of moving into a 35,000-square-foot building.”
Amid the moving, there is one task that the troopers will have to do themselves — transfer evidence files. The chain of custody can’t be broken on all those hundreds, or thousands, of pounds of paper and other items, Paraska said.
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