After 181 years, Beckley has a custom-built police department headquarters.
With an air of celebration and with prayers of thanksgiving from local pastors, city officials unveiled the $6 million facility on Neville Street to the public Monday morning. Around 150 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the 24,000-square-foot building.
Completion of the headquarters marks a historic first for the city.
"It's the first city police building designed to be a police department," Beckley Police Department Chief Lonnie Christian said.
In his speech at the grand opening, Christian said he had taken pains to advise the Thrasher Engineering architect who designed the new headquarters. Christian wanted the building to meet the needs of the police department, which employs 54 "sworn" officers and 14 civilians.
The finished complex, across from Beckley Intermodal Gateway (BIG), offers equipped classrooms, an equipped gym, evidence storage areas, new computers, a new phone system, a reception area and offices.
Christian jokingly admitted that he pays close attention to details, or, as his wife calls it, can be a "pain." He said he had "goal and a vision" for the new headquarters and that the planning had resulted in "sleepless nights."
The facility was supposed to have been finished in January but bad weather had slowed construction.
"I'm sure the stress had taken a few years off my lifespan, anyway," Christian quipped. "Who knew that building a new police facility would be so complex and so many questions would arise, and rise and rise again?
"But we finally made it to this day, when we came together on this blessed day and see the fruits of our labor."
Christian offered special gratitude to Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold and city treasurer Billie Trump.
"Without (Rappold's) support, we would never have had this building," said Christian, adding that Trump completed "the financial footwork" to make it possible.
"Without the support of these two gentlemen, we would not have this beautiful facility that's behind us."
Rappold said thanked Council for supporting the construction and announced that, in the future, a memorial will be placed outside of the building to memorialize fallen officers.
The mayor said that Cpl. Chuck Smith, Sgt. David Lilly and Patrolman Carl Buckman are three officers who were killed by gunfire in the line of duty and whose memory will be honored at the new facility.
"I can't express how pleased I am today," said the mayor. "It's a source of pride.
"In the future, there will be a stunning memorial to recognize all fallen officers."
A Thrasher Engineering officer presented a framed photograph of the facility to city officials.
Bishop Fred Simms of Heart of God Ministries offered an opening prayer, and Pastor "Doc" Adkins of First Baptist Church prayed to dedicate the facility.
The public was invited to tour the new facility after the ribbon-cutting.
City officials have said the old headquarters on Prince Street, which BPD has used since the early 1970s, is dilapidated and overcrowded. Rappold said Friday that it will likely be demolished once the transfer is complete.