MERRILLVILLE — After being closed for the past 15 years, the town's north police station has recently reopened.
The Merrillville Police Department's north station, in Broadway Plaza at 5400 Broadway, opened a month ago, Police Chief Wiley Luther Cuttino said.
"We are glad to see it become a reality. We've been working on it for some time," Cuttino said.
Cuttino and other town officials gathered at the north station entrance on Tuesday afternoon to conduct a tour of the newly opened substation.
"Business owners and residents asked us if we can come back home and here we are," Cuttino said.
A second tour, led by Cuttino, followed at the newly opened police training center which is located at the Pruzin Center, at 57th Avenue and Tyler Street.
The Pruzin Center had been used by the Parks Department until it moved to the new Dean and Barbara White Community Center.
The newly renovated police station includes a front area with two desks so police officers can write reports; a larger area with several desks and chairs which can be used for roll call and classes, a storage area and restrooms.
"It (the police station) really needed some TLC (tender loving care)" Cuttino said.
Town Manager Pat Reardon said the cost borne by the town for the renovations to the police station was approximately $50,000.
That funding came from the town administration and police department budgets.
Both Reardon and Cuttino credited a number of area companies, trade unions and individuals for donating labor, materials and time.
Erica Lee, owner/partner with Chicago Capital LLC, is not charging the town rent for utilizing the space in Broadway Plaza, Reardon said.
Others who donated labor and materials included NWI Building, Construction and Trades Council, Local 599 Carpenters Union, TSI Commercial Flooring, Huggett Betten Corp., Fade to Black, Stan's Painting and Town Building Inspector Dan Brown
The renovation of the new police department was approved about a year ago but town officials were faced with a slow down due to COVID-19, Reardon said.
"We ran into the COVID-19 brick wall," Reardon said.
Many of the companies contacted agreed to contribute and those who said they couldn't right now, said to check back with them later.
"We were really pleased with the response we go from those we contacted," Reardon said.
On-duty officers working in the town's northern area now have access to the station to complete reports, can meet with residents and handle other tasks instead of traveling back to the department in the center of Merrillville, Cuttino said.
The newly opened station will also be more available in the case of traffic impediments such as trains crossing.
"When the officers go south (to the other station) they get caught by tracks. We will have the tools to work with them on that," Cuttino said.
He said the north station isn’t staffed at all times, but a volunteer reserve program can assist with that.
“In due time, when we get the reserve program going, hopefully we can get somebody stationed up there,” Cuttino said.
Opening the north station and starting a reserve program isn’t the only way the department is growing.
The department recently started using the town’s Pruzin Center for officer training programs.
Merrillville officers Kurt Horvath, support services commander, and Nate Dillahunty, operations commander, were on hand Tuesday to explain training that will take place at the Pruzin Center.
Those classes, both inside and outside the center, include firearms training, marksmanship and scenario based training.
There are 11 instructors who will be conducting the training at Pruzin and instructors from other departments will be invited to conduct training there as well, Horvath said.
Town Councilman Rick Bella, who came to tour the newly opened station, said he was glad to see it opened because of the shear size of the town police officers have to patrol.
"Merrillville is kind of long and skinny," Bella said.
Retired Merrillville Police officer Bill Poling said he recalled there being a north station in the early 90s all the way through to 2006, when he retired from the department.
Poling and Bella both commented that it was "odd that the north police station is back in the same place."