With a few signatures by Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis, the City of Wetumpka can soon start renovations to the old Wells Fargo building making it the new police department after the old one was destroyed by the January tornado.

“We will start soon,” Willis said. “We will close in parts of the drive-thru area but leave the ATM. Wells Fargo will be able to keep it there for 20 years.”

The ATM site was part of the deal for the purchase. The city purchased the building and property valued at $1.5 million for $500,000 and the value will go up when city employees complete the renovations finishing out the second floor. The Wetumpka City Council unanimously approved the purchase in July and Willis’ signatures mean the city can start work.

It comes none too soon after the January EF2 tornado destroyed the police department at Marshall and Coosa streets on the west side of the Coosa River. Since then the department has been operating out of the city’s administration building.

“They are in a very, very cramped situation with not a lot of privacy,” Willis said. “The way they bring people in and out is getting difficult. Somebody is in handcuffs and they’re dragging them right through where we’re working and whatever is going on.”

Willis identified the space just days after the tornado and reached out to Wells Fargo.

“It’s a perfect location,” Willis said. “It will meet the needs of our police department and also help us better serve the traffic and people of the city of Wetumpka. We will still have a presence on the west side of the river, some type of substation so we can cover the city the way it should be covered.”

Wetumpka police chief Greg Benton said the location will be more efficient.

“Most of the calls we make in response to traffic accidents are out here on this highway (231) plus there are just a lot of major businesses out here,” Benton said.

Benton said the building on U.S. Highway 231 will be a good for the department because of its construction.

“It was a bank so it’s a pretty secure building, much more secure than the old building,” Benton said. “It’s a more modern building. We’ll do a few renovations downstairs and finish up the 1,800 square feet that is unfinished upstairs.”

Willis and Benton said the city plans to keep a substation in a city-owned facility off Highway 111 on the west side of the river but the location of the main station off Highway 231 is ideal for access.

Willis said the building will be ready soon for the police department and renovations will be done in house.

“I have put together a team that will be doing the remodeling who are already on the payroll,” he said. “We will purchase the materials in house. That will save us money and we’ll be able to get on it immediately. I hope in two to three months we will have the building set up so the police can conduct their day-to-day operations in it. Wells Fargo has been very kind to us. They gifted to us a $1 million value.”