Beginning next week, the Manassas City Police Department will move into new "police blue" and gray digs in a wing added to the back of the department headquarters on Fairview Avenue. The new section is part of a citywide renovation and building program to upgrade facilities to accommodate the area's growing population, said City Manager John Cartwright.

"Everybody is anxious to get in," Police Chief Sam Ellis said during a tour of the facility. "The whole department is really excited. I'm going to lay the credit for the whole project on the City Council. They had the foresight to see that we needed the new space."

The population of the City of Manassas almost doubled in the last decade, largely because of the influx of home buyers who moved into the area to take advantage of affordable prices. Census figures put the city's 1990 population at 27,957, compared with 15,438 in 1980.

The renovation project was started to bring city services up to the level that will be required to serve a population of 38,000 at the city's build-out -- when no more new housing developments will be built -- in the next century, officials said.

The renovation program, funded by a $34 million bond issue in 1988, also includes construction of a new public works building, schools and road-widening programs. The new Department of Public Works building, at Breeden and Portner avenues, houses that agency as well as city electric, water, power, sewer, parks, streets, school bus operations and vehicle maintenance offices.

"For the first time we have combined those services in one new complex," Cartwright said. "The word I get from our employees is that they used to work in hand-me-down garages and leftover buildings, and now that they are in the new building, they feel like they have gone from the Middle Ages to the 20th century." The upgrading of police facilities is the first since the current building was constructed in 1979. The department has increased from 88 in 1979 to a current staff of 93, Ellis said.

The 3,700-square-foot headquarters building was built in 1979 and was outgrown several years ago, Ellis said. Because of the space crunch, the criminal investigations division was relocated to leased space in an office building on Route 28. Other departments, including traffic violations and the canine unit, had no office space; officers in those departments worked mostly out of their cars, Ellis said.

The old office space will be renovated and the criminal investigations division will move in later this year.

The new building measures in at a hefty 19,000 square feet and includes conference rooms, employee lounges and a temporary jail, where inmates will be housed on a short-term basis pending relocation to the Adult Detention Center on Lee Avenue.

The building also features a separate briefing room and office space for patrol officers. A multipurpose room has been included that will be available to the public. Ellis said the building was designed for public access "since they are paying for it."

A courtyard area will feature a fountain. The lobby will be decorated with a memorial to Manassas Police Officer John D. Conner, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.

The crowning glory of the new station may be the new communications center, a glass-enclosed room on the top floor that will house dispatchers for police, fire and emergency services. It may be only the second police communications center in the country located on other than the ground-floor of a police building, Ellis said. A city in Arizona also has a top-floor dispatch center, he said.

Last week, dispatchers in the tiny dispatch room said they are eager to move into the new "police blue" and gray room. Ellis said city officials hope morale for the dispatchers, who perform a highly stressful job, will be improved by sitting them on top of the station "instead of down in a bunker."

City officials say they also hope to complete a $7.5 million indoor sports complex and a $10 million street project, to include widening of Liberia Avenue, "as soon as economic conditions warrant it," Cartwright said.