York City police chief Wes Kahley, right, talks with WellSpan president Bruce Bartels during a tour of the police department.
York City police chief Wes Kahley, right, talks with WellSpan president Bruce Bartels during a tour of the police department. (Bil Bowden photo)

The cluttered stacks of decades-old paper are long gone. So are the outdated computer monitors and dusty boxes.

In their place are a few ladders, some Rutter's coffee cups and men wearing hard hats.

Work is well under way to transform York City's attic at 50 W. King St. into a modern evidence-storage area, training center and gym for the city's police department.

But it almost didn't happen.

York City has a $5 million state grant to modernize its former City Hall into an accredited, state-of-the-art facility for its police department.

But, late last year, contract bids repeatedly exceeded engineers' estimates - leaving the city with a contingency fund of just $130,000.

Having vowed not to spend local dollars on the project, city officials began considering cost-saving options.

On the potential chopping block were some of the plans for the fourth-floor attic.

Thanks to a $600,000 donation from WellSpan, the project can move forward as planned, officials said at a press conference Tuesday.

"Without their help, there were some things that would have been removed from the project," Police Chief Wes Kahley said. "They've been good partners for us before. They saw a need and we're glad they stepped in to help us out."

WellSpan's donation will allow the city to fulfill its original plan without going over budget, said Jim Gross, the city's public works director.

"It definitely gives us a cushion," he said.

The center: The new WellSpan Police Training Center will serve as a classroom and computer lab for police officers to complete mandatory trainings and continue their education.

Over time, the center will save the city "quite a bit of money" because officers won't have to travel to places like Philadelphia for training, Kahley said.

Modernizing evidence storage is crucial to the department's achieving accreditation," Kahley said.

"The way we store evidence now isn't illegal. But it's not the best way," he said.

For example, the planned upgrades will improve the way the police handle bloody and soiled clothes so as to maximize the chance for DNA extraction later on, Kahley said.

The fourth floor will also a house a gym for officers, but that cost is being covered by the Fraternal Order of Police, Kahley said.

At the news conference, Mayor Kim Bracey highlighted the fact that the training center will be available to police departments across York County, reinforcing the city's partnership with other law-enforcement entities.

"We all know that criminals don't pay attention to municipal boundaries," she said.

- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.