The only people behind the judge's bench in the new $6.8 million Clarence Public Safety Building this past week were a couple of construction workers who were building a brand-new bench. The lobby is empty and the judges' chambers are still unfurnished offices.
But it's another story on the other side of the building.
New York State Police have begun moving into their new regional headquarters, which has a swanky command center, new carpeting, rows of desks for detectives, new technology for processing drunk drivers and fingerprinting, and separate bathrooms for drug testing.
There are accommodations for 33 troopers, including locker rooms, showers and a bunk room, and benches with metal bars that will let troopers handcuff prisoners in place as they await questioning or an appearance court. There's an entrance directly into the courtroom.
The State Police will open their side of the building to the public for tours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at a special event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the New York State Police. The ceremony also will include State Police historical displays and demonstrations of the latest law enforcement equipment, from helicopters to troop cars, motorcycles and special operations response vehicles. There also will be demonstrations by K-9 and mounted patrol units.
State Police will be the building's main tenant, occupying about half of the 18,000-square-foot building, which sits on 4 acres of town property adjacent to the Town Hall. The town plans to move its courthouse and judges' offices into 7,700 square feet of the building sometime next month and the Erie County Sheriff's Office also will have a 2,200-square-foot office in the building.
The town is awaiting furniture, rugs and other finishing touches in the courthouse and plans to have a formal ribbon cutting and dedication when it is completed next month.
The State Police have had an office in Clarence for 30 years, but the town feared the agency might leave, so it pursued the building project, according to Town Attorney Lawrence W. Meckler.
"(State Police) had a barracks on Main Street, but the lease was running out. We wanted to keep them in Clarence," said Meckler. "After the State Police accepted our proposal we thought this was a perfect time to do our courthouse.
Meckler said the town was selected by the State Police as the site for its Zone 2 headquarters in 2014. Construction of the building took place over the last year and a half.
State Police will pay $1 million in rent over the next 20 years, said Meckler of the new lease.
Town Supervisor Patrick Casilio said the new State Police headquarters is almost three times larger than its current barracks in Clarence.
Casilio said the Public Safety Building will make Clarence, which has no town police department, a safer community, with troopers from all areas traveling through Clarence to report to the headquarters, as well as officers from the Sheriff's Department.