RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond's Planning Commission approved a new barn facility for the mounted unit of Richmond Police.
The $1.5 million facility is expected to be built at Gillie's Creek in the city's East End. The new barn is expected to include 12 stalls on a 45-acres.
For decades, the mounted unit's barn was underneath an overpass on Brook Road.
The facility could also be shared with future mounted units from Capitol and VCU police.
The current cinder block stable off Brook Road has been subpar for more than a decade, with little space for the horses to graze. The stable is near loud train tracks and busy roadways, with concrete flooring and other maintenance issues.
The rumbling sound of the train is typical for Toby - a strapping, young horse that joined RPD's Mounted Unit two years ago.
"It was decades-long, common knowledge that we were in dire need of a new barn," said retired Richmond Police Officer Glenwood Burley.
Burley is helping to push through the effort for a new barn, after plans have been stop-and-go for well over a decade. He created a committee to bolster the project.
"We're working feverishly to get those horses out of there," Burley said.
Richmond Police confirm a field by Gillies Creek is now at the top of the list of potential locations. The horses would have about ten acres of land that would be grassed over, along with their new stable.
"They'll have turnout. They will have stalls that are not cinder block. They will have pads in the stalls. They will have water that's doesn't flood and leak and freeze," said Leslie Buck, president of the Friends of the Richmond Mounted Squad charity.
The charity has raised $80,000 so far, for the new barn. The city has dedicated about $778,000 for the project.
"Economically, and logistically and practically, this is a win-win for the three agencies," said Burley about the prospective shared barn between Richmond, Capitol and VCU police.
Capitol Police have a grant to fund two horses with equipment and officer training. VCU Police would like to have one or two horses for patrolling and boosting engagement with students and others on campus. However, a majority of the details on how a joint stable would be shared between the agencies would still need to be worked out.
Burley said soil samples have already been taken from the field at Gillies Creek. They are currently being tested. A location tapped for the barn last year - off Forest Lawn Drive, near the Police Canine Training and Community Center - proved to have issues with its soil.
"It was just heartbreaking. We found a spot. We had prices. We were ready to go, and we got the engineering report, and it was just not suitable or safe for the horses," explained Buck. "There shouldn't be a whole lot of land renovation that needs to be done [with Gillies Creek]. So, the money that's been allotted can be spent for the facility itself."
Officials are hopeful to break ground on a new barn site, sometime this year. The Capitol Police's grant for a mounted unit is set to expire in 2018.
Copyright 2018 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.