But last week, the new police quarters on the first floor of City Hall were officially opened to the public.
"This is all long overdue for Union City," said Mayor Brian Stack.
The most important impetus for the construction was that the original police headquarters were on the second floor of the building on 38th Street, and were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates that all governmental facilities be accessible to anyone with a disability. So the quarters were moved downstairs.
The project took about nine months to complete. According to Commissioner Michael Leggiero, whose office oversaw the construction, 90 percent of the work was done "in-house," using city workers working on their own time.
Said Leggiero in an interview after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, "This meets all ADA and Department of Correction guidelines. Ninety percent of the work was done 'in-house.' The other 10 percent was done by outside people. Things like the wallpaper and flooring can be tricky, and we wanted it done right." The commissioner continued, "The holding cells were also done by an outside contractor. That's a specialized job." The commissioner also pointed out that the ceiling above the holding cells was solid concrete. "No sheet rock there," he said.
The two holding cells are sparse, utilitarian affairs that feature stainless steel sink/commode combos and long benches with handcuffs around the support legs. The doors are not barred, as many people have seen in jail cells in the movies. These cells feature sliding inch-thick steel doors painted a rather pleasant shade of blue.
According to Union City police chief Norman Bareis, prisoners are not kept in these holding cells overnight, unless something unforeseen occurs. "We never keep suspects here overnight," said the chief. "We always send them to the county lock-up in Kearny once they're formally charged."
But this new police headquarters is about more than holding cells and handcuffs. It's about allowing the police officers of Union City to work in a more comfortable environment. According to Stack, a happy cop is a good, productive cop. "The police weren't working in the best conditions. Now they have a new locker room and new offices, and I am working on getting a gym for them." Continued the mayor, "The residents of the city get the end result of this."
Said police chief Norman Bareis, "This whole renovation has been in the works for five or six years. It was started when Bruce Walter was mayor." The chief is referring to the renovation that was done to the City Hall building about eight years ago. However, the police department, for reasons unknown, was the last part of the building to be renovated.
Said Bareis, "It was much needed. This gives a lot more to the citizens. We have a victim's room and an arrestee's area. I really allows for a higher level of professionalism."
Upon entering the new police department, one might think they have mistakenly entered a bank. Union City spokesperson Gayle Kaufman was heard joking, "Can I make a deposit, please?"
Mayor Stack had kind words for his commissioners, particularly Commissioner Michael Leggiero, whose Parks Department handled the construction.
"A job well-done by Commissioner Leggiero and the Parks Department," said the mayor.