FORTVILLE — Jeans and a hooded sweatshirt isn’t the uniform Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer usually wears to the office. But things have been a bit dusty at his police station as of late, with residue from newly laid drywall leaving a thin layer of dust everywhere and the smell of paint lingering in the halls.
So, he’s opted for a more causal look in recent weeks, trading in his duty boots for Red Wings, his pistol for paintbrushes and calling his officers to do the same and put in the sweat equity needed to complete a much-needed remodel of their police station, which hasn’t seen upgrades in a decade.
The work comes in an effort to improve the look of their portion of the Fortville Town Hall and reconfigure the building layout to give officers more work space, Knauer said.
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The improvements come at little cost to Fortville’s taxpayers as the department’s officers volunteered hours after their patrols to complete the remodel using materials donated by a local contractor.
The Fortville Police Department is located in the back of Fortville’s municipal center. The department’s nine full-time officers and 10 reserve officers share four small rooms. Two offices are shared by the department administrators; one room is used for primarily for storage; and the remaining space is left as a work area shared by all other personnel.
It has been more than 10 years since the place had any updating, Knauer said. For the most part, the officers were sharing a single desk and computer to write their reports, and there was no space dedicated entirely for interviews with victims or suspects, he said.
The chief arranged to give the area a facelift because he wanted the department to look more professional and inviting, he said.
The remodel added desk space of each full-time officer, Knauer said. They also re-purposed their storage area to create an interview room that can be used when officers need to meet privately with members of the public.
Knauer commissioned his own officers to do some of the hard labor, and each stepped up to help in some way, whether it was ripping up carpet, painting or moving furniture.
Fortville resident Eddie Alexander, owner of Best Drywall in Fortville, agreed to help with the rest of the work, he said.
The police department spent some money from its own budget to add extra furniture to fill the new workspace but saved thousands in labor and materials, officials said.
Alexander committed himself and a handful of employees to help put up drywall and handle other minor repairs that would have cost around $1,300. Taking the work on for free is just his way for giving back to the community, Alexander said.
“Anything I can do to help the town is worth it in every way,” he said.
Town officials said they recognized there was a need for updates to the local police station but found budgeting for such work to be difficult. Making the decision to hand out dollars often comes down to deciding which expense is a need and which is a want, town council member Janet Manship said.
Watching the chief take the initiative was a welcome relief to the council, and seeing a locally-owned business step up to help made the project even better, she said.
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” Manship said. “It really shows the unity between the department and the town and says a lot about the support we feel from within the community.”