Renovations of a landmark building in Bainbridge are being completed to make it the new home of the Valley Enforcement Group’s Special Weapons and Tactics vehicles. The building on Bainbridge Road was the township’s early road garage.
This week, the Bainbridge Service Department members were painting the barn-like building which has not been used as a road garage since the late 1970s. It was being used for storage by the township departments and was in need of upgrades.
Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Bokovitz had proposed use of the building for the SWAT vehicles and Bainbridge Trustees ultimately approved that plan.
The renovation work inside the building has been done with private donations, Chief Bokovitz said. The inside was gutted over the past year or so.
The vehicles in the building are ready to go when they are needed, Chief Bokovitz said. The vehicles have been stored at the Chagrin Falls armory and at a site in Warrensville Heights.
“We tore everything out of the building and cleaned it up,” the chief said of the former road garage. It had been used as storage for old and outdated items for the township.
The back two portions of the building that were additions to the original structure were removed. They had little value, he said.
The renovation work included installing insulation, a heating system and a new roof. A second-floor area used for an office and built by a previous building owner was also removed. Stock Equipment in Bainbridge donated a secure equipment cage for all extra equipment stored in the building.
Chief Bokovitz said he had been looking for a central place for the Valley Enforcement Group’s vehicles since they were parked at different locations. By grouping them together, it streamlines the process and the response time is faster.
He looked at other sites including the former fire station in Russell Township. The old road garage in Bainbridge appeared to be the best choice.
“This building was not being used and was not looking good,” he said of the former road garage which sits in front of the police station. “We can make it look good,” he had told the trustees. In addition, he said the group’s vehicles were not in an ideal situation in the way they were being stored. It all came together with the SWAT team now having a safe, secure site for its vehicles.
In addition, location of the new storage garage is close to Route 422 and more centrally located to the communities the group serves, Chief Bokovitz said. Fifteen police departments are group members.
Bainbridge Police Officer Frank Chickos is commander of the SWAT team. “VEG is technically a political entity,” Officer Chickos said. Member police departments pool their resources to provide services that would otherwise be too expensive, he said.
They have a hostage negotiations team, the SWAT unit and an accident investigation unit that covers serious injuries and fatalities. The group also has a child abduction response team and an unmanned aerial vehicle which is the drone unit as well as an investigation unit for discussing and reviewing current case work, Mr. Chickos said.
VEG was formed in the late 1990s, and the police chiefs of the member communities meet monthly.
The SWAT vehicles stored in the building include the command vehicle, a transport van for personnel and cargo and an armored vehicle. The building provides a central location, Mr. Chickos said. Previously, one was in Bainbridge, a second one was at Chagrin Falls and a third one was in Moreland Hills.
The SWAT team responds to a wide variety of incidents from high-risk warrant services, active shooter situations, arrests and search warrants. They recently responded to an incident with barricaded subjects in Glenwillow and they helped provide an escort when President Donald Trump came to Hunting Valley for a fundraising event.