The ribbon-cutting for the new Los Banos Police Station drew more than 200 people Nov. 3 on a bright and mild Friday morning.

They heard how much bigger, brighter and more efficient the new station is compared to the old facilities, which include a small main station on J and Fifth Streets, the Police Annex on J Street and several other structures which totaled 21,000 square feet.

The new station has 31,000 square feet, as outgoing Police Chief Gary Brizzee noted, all in one spacious building which, as he said, “was purpose built for efficiency.”

The old station, for example, had five video screens, the new has 26, to help monitor police and community activities. The old station had 30 full-size lockers for the current 48 sworn officers; the new has 84 full-size lockers, 66 for male officers, 18 for female officers.

Brizzee also talked about how solid the new building is. The exterior walls are five feet high and 28 feet tall, and during construction 11,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured.

Mayor Paul Llanez talked about how long this new station has been in the planning stages. Llanez remembers that soon after being sworn in as a LBPD officer in 2003, he talked with then-mayor Michael Amabile about the need for a new station. Shortly thereafter, Llanez noted, the community passed Measure P, the first of several measures that provided the funding for the new station.

Besides Brizzee and Llanez, other speakers at the ceremony included City Manager Josh Pinheiro, former Los Banos CHP commander Sam Samra (now a representative of Congressman John Duarte) and Scott Silviera, a Los Banos City Councilmember for eight years when the new station was being planned and now a Merced County supervisor representing the Westside.

Pinheiro said the new station represents the collective efforts of many people and reaffirmed the city’s commitment to public safety.

Silveira noted the large crowd in attendance was a testimony to the community’s support for the police department, especially the leadership of Chief Brizzee and previous Los Banos Police Chief Mike Hughes for their efforts in helping to make the dream of a new station a reality.

In his remarks Brizzee said the planning and construction of the new station was the hardest project he’s ever been involved in. He appreciated all the work his staff put into the project, especially Public Services Manager Brenda Geary (now retired), as well as other members of the city staff and the city’s planning commission, and the work of the architects and construction managers. And he was proud to say the project came in “under budget.”

Brizzee had special praise for the residents of Los Banos, who enabled the construction of the new station by passing several measures and by showing ongoing support for the police department and public safety.

The ceremony also included the Los Banos High School Band playing the national anthem and members of the Los Banos VFW and American Legion posts standing at attention and saluting the flag.

When the ceremonies were over, Brizzee took a deep breath, realizing he had completed his personal mission of seeing the new station open before he retired. He added he can take another deep breath at 3 p.m. with Commander Ray Reyna, Jr., being sworn in as the new police chief. Brizzee will retire from the force on Nov. 18.