State troopers eager to move into state-of-the-art station
Members of the Pennsylvania State Police’s A Troop can take pride in knowing that theirs is the only remaining original troop of four that was created with the creation of the state’s police force in 1905.
Soon, the Greensburg-based troupe will have another point of pride – a new, state-of-the-art station next to their current home on Westmoreland Avenue.
“By far, this will be the finest state police barracks in the state,” said Lt. Steven Paraska, station commander who oversaw the project.
Tuesday is the “commissioning” date for the troop to start rolling out of the new facility, “knock on wood,” Paraska said.
“On Tuesday they will cut the data and phone lines from the old building and transfer them,” he said. “Hopefully Tuesday’s midnight shift will go live.”
During the handover process, calls will be routed through the Kiski station, he said.
The 35,000 square foot facility will allow troops to deploy. The current station, dating to 1957, is less than half that size at 15,000 square feet.
It will also bring together certain offices located in outlying buildings under one roof.
“We passed it a long time ago,” Paraska said. “Actually, it looks like they outgrew this building the day they moved in.”
Troop A was originally quartered at the site of the current Mt. Odin Park Golf Course in Greensburg. His stables were 2½ miles from what is now Lynch Field — quite a trek in 1905, Paraska noted.
The troop moved to Westmoreland Avenue in 1913. The new facility will be its third station on the site, familiar to members of the community who have traveled there to take driver’s license tests.
Things have changed
Things have certainly changed over the years, said Paraska, who is an informal troop historian. Old photos line the walls and shelves of his office, old lists are tucked away in drawers, and the closet holds other collectibles, including an old bubble lamp that once topped a patrol car.
Greensburg’s current soldiers, numbering 115 in various specialist units, had to make do in a space that housed around 53 in the 1950s.
“It was run like the military, so things had to be simple,” Paraska said.
The offices in the 1957 building were originally dormitories for the soldiers, all single men, who were to live there. A community shower room has been converted to serve as an armory. There was a small kitchen adjacent to a dining room which now serves as a classroom.
“The 1956 list listed a senior cook and two waitresses,” Paraska said.
The ground was laid in September 2018 for the new $18 million station, which will provide much-needed headroom in a number of areas. The project also includes the renovation of an existing garage.
The station layout includes a larger communications room for dispatchers, an additional processing room, and more classroom space. It will also consolidate offices that have been relegated to temporary quarters around the site.
Soldiers will be able to enter prisoners through a secure exit port, another feature that the old station lacked.
They will also work in comfort, thanks to 12 bathrooms instead of two and a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient computerized heating and air conditioning system.
“Our old boiler system is so outdated that you can’t adjust the heat,” Paraska said. “It’s so hot in the winter that the guys have to run the air conditioning.”
Utility and aesthetics
The new station has a brick masonry exterior, a thermoplastic roof and a special resin-coated concrete block interior, said Jesse Auker, project manager for construction company Leonard S. Fiore Inc. of Altoona. . The interior block, exterior doors and glass are ballistic rated for safety.
“You have about 10 layers of glass probably 6 inches thick at the front doors,” he said.
The design combines utility and aesthetics, said architect Elijah Dolly of Buchart Horn Inc., a York-based architecture and engineering firm with an office in Pittsburgh.
The interior incorporates modern industrial style design features like exposed wiring and ductwork.
“I wasn’t a fan of it at first, but now I think it looks pretty good,” Paraska said – noting the irony that the old station also had exposed wiring, due to its modernization over the years to accommodate more telephones and computers. .
“It’s a very interesting project,” said Dolly. “We do a lot of state and civic projects, so this isn’t our first police barracks. We understood that the building had to be a sturdy construction, so that it would last a long time, and that it would be low maintenance, easy to clean and very durable.
“Security is a very big concern, obviously, but we wanted a balance between maintaining security and opening up the building where we could,” he said.
The public entrance opens into a soaring atrium topped with a skylight, which Dolly says accomplishes this goal.
“The atrium is a pivot for the public entering the building, to make it a bit more welcoming,” he says.
In front of the atrium is a curved glass wall overlooking a gathering space that opens onto a shaded terrace.
Paraska said the atrium was another feature he needed to be sold on, initially thinking it was a waste of money. But like the industrial design elements, it counters the institutional feel of the rest of the structure.
The new station stands a stone’s throw from the old structure, which will be demolished to accommodate more parking.
“The plan more efficiently collects and consolidates all the sheds and shacks on the site,” Dolly said. “It cleans up the site and provides a nice setup that will last a long time.”
The construction itself offered a number of challenges, Auker said.
“It’s much easier to build a new building on new land,” he says. “On this one, you had to phase it in to keep everything working.”
Workers and machinery also had to maneuver around an active firing range and incoming and outgoing patrol cars, Auker said.
The project, including the demolition of the old station and subsequent landscaping and landscaping, is expected to be completed in the fall. The transfer of furniture from the old structure to the new began on July 20.
“We had 45 dry days and of course it started raining when we started moving furniture,” Paraska said. “But everything went well.
“There were a few hiccups,” he said. “If you’ve ever moved, you know it’s not fun. Now consider moving into a 35,000 square foot building.
In the middle of the move, there is one task the soldiers will have to do themselves: transferring evidence files. The chain of custody cannot be broken on all those hundreds or even thousands of pounds of paper and other items, Paraska said.