Rep. Alan Lowenthal takes a photo of Signal Hill s civic leaders at the grand opening of the city s new Emergency Operations Center on Saturday, Jan. 26,
Rep. Alan Lowenthal takes a photo of Signal Hill s civic leaders at the grand opening of the city s new Emergency Operations Center on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. The 21,500-square-foot police facility on Walnut Avenue replaces a smaller station built in the 1950s. (Brittany Murray/Staff Photographer)

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SIGNAL HILL - The Signal Hill Police Department celebrated the grand opening of its new station and Emergency Operations Center on Saturday.

Several dignitaries were on hand for the opening, including Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who presented his first certificate of special recognition since his recent election to Congress.

"This is a wonderful facility, and I've been watching it develop over the years," Lowenthal said to the crowd. "Besides the physical structure we are here to dedicate today, I really want to commend all the people that went into making this possible. This is really all about the people."

The 21,5000-square-feet facility at 2745 Walnut Ave. is approximately 8,200 square feet larger than the current station, which was built in the 1950s.

At the time it housed a police department staff of about 25 that served a community of 4,600.

Today, the city has grown significantly, with a population of more than 11,400 and several commercial businesses.

"This is truly a community police station that belongs to the citizens of Signal Hill," said Signal Hill Chief Michael Langston.

The new building, which will be operational Tuesday, has been designed to allow for future expansions, featuring a modern dispatch center with state-of- the-art communications systems and a larger upgraded Emergency Operations Center.


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Additional new technology in the facility allows for jail visitation via a telephone and camera in the lobby where visitors can talk to inmates. Software allows police to set a timer for 10- to 15-minute visits.

"The video conferences capability is a huge improvement for us because currently if someone comes to visit a prisoner they have to come through the secure facility," Langston said. "Now they will have to wait in the lobby area."

The new jail cells are each equipped with intercoms and video so that jailers can communicate with prisoners and can see the prisoners from their office area instead of going to the cells to check on prisoners.

The modernized Emergency Operations Center will improve the city's ability to assist the community after a natural disaster or provide mutual aid to another community, Langston said.

The entire construction process took more than a decade to become a reality, said Don Pedersen, former Signal Hill police chief from 2001 to 2006.

"I remember when I went to the city manager almost 12 years ago and said, `I think we need a new police department,"' he said. "...I think I've been told before that there's a fine line between a vision and a hallucination - this is a vision today and I'm just really excited for the people who are going to work in this building and the community because the men and women of the police department do such a fantastic job they deserve this building and the residents deserve this."

Other upgrades include solar-powered electricity during daylight hours and in-car camera systems.

"When the officers pull into the parking (lot), through wireless technology the video and audio feeds from the cars will download into the server area," Langston said.

Although the entire project took years to complete, it was well worth the wait, said Signal Hill Mayor Tina Hansen.

"This new station tells you who we are as a city," she said. "We are a city who has a vision, and we know where we want to go. It may take us awhile to figure out how to get there, but we are also a city that is patient. We don't rush into decisions or judgments. We take our time and gather our facts."

pam.hale@presstelegram.com

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