By BRYAN T. McMAHON
The Ponchatoula Consolidated Law Enforcement Complex (You can call it the new Ponchatoula Police Station) will take up the over-10,000 square foot bank building that was the former Ponchatoula Homestead and after that, a branch of First Guaranty Bank.
It is located at the intersection of North Sixth and West Hickory with entrances on both streets, for now. The main entrance to the complex will be on North Sixth Street.
“We worked closely with Architect Chris Bankston to get just what we needed,” Mayor Bob Zabbia told The Times. And he was by no means the only elected official to express elation over the new municipal building.
“We have room to grow,” beamed Police Chief Bry Layrisson during a recent Times tour of the facility.
“For the first time in 10 years we will be operating under one roof. In 2008 and 2009 we were operating out of three buildings. It was a nightmare,” Chief Layrisson added.
“For the citizens it will mean the police department will be a one-stop-shop for the public, safer and more secure. The four up-to-six-prisoner capacity holding cells will make the whole operation safer,” the city’s elected chief lawman told The Times.
Mayor Bob Zabbia is glorying in the fruition of years of his planning a new government complex at the center of downtown that includes a municipal fountain tribute to local strawberry farmers, a spacious modern downtown parking lot, and a federally-funded commuter parking lot.
The police chief says he now has plenty of room to house offices and facilities located currently in two separate buildings.
Among the major improvements:
The police chief will have under his command a combination Conference/Training Room;
– A bank vault to secure evidence;
– A spacious car park on the site of the former Wagner Home facing West Hickory.
– A commercial kitchen that is sure to come in handy at festival time, or whenever officers from other departments come to town, and;
– Handicap-accessible bathrooms.
– New offices for the police chief and other senior city police officials.
Ponchatoula City Court will be conducted at City Hall in the Council Chambers.
Using state Capital Outlay Funds originally obtained in 2013 ($1.25 million, matched 25% by the city), Ponchatoula purchased the new Consolidated Law Enforcement Complex building from First Guaranty Bank for $712,500.
First Guaranty Bank has been praised by Ponchatoula elected officials for its generosity on this project, starting with an agreement to charge a token amount rent for using bank property for long months before the sale.