Kent Police Department down to two possible sites for new building

Ryan Lewis

The Kent Police Department is now deciding between two preferable sites for its new police station, according to police Chief Michelle Lee and Kent City Manager Dave Ruller.

The city is working with an estimated budget of $18 million, with $5 million of it projected for land acquisition, Ruller said. Those funds are the result of the passing of Issue Four, an income tax increase, this past November.

The city hasn’t closed off any possibilities in terms of building locations, but it has found its two most preferable sites, referred to as Site A and Site B by Lee and Ruller.

Site A includes three main properties and is between Day Street and Summit Street, which borders South Water Street and is directly across from the station’s current location.

Currently residing on that lot is a vacated commercial building, a rented house and three businesses: Quick Service Welding, Magic City Customs and Tan Spa.

The city is currently doing a new series of land appraisals, which are expected to be completed within the next week or two, according to Ruller. The most recent appraised value of those properties is a combined $964,800, according to Portage County public records.

The actual purchase price, though, will be higher, as those property owners aren’t necessarily open to selling. Preliminary discussions about the purchase of those properties have begun while the city continues to collect data.

“I would characterize the initial conversations between the city and property owners as respectful and congenial, but we’re not talking pricing yet, these have just been exploratory discussions,” Ruller said. “I’d say some owners are more interested in selling than others, but until a price is proposed, these are really just theoretical conversations.”

Other concerns might exist at or below Site A.

“The detailing shop [Magic City Customs] used to be a gas station, so the probability of some underground gas tanks are high,” Lee said. “And the welding shop, we’re unsure of what kind of environmental hazards may be lying under that. You could have oils, different treatment contaminates, that could have reached into the soil. And environmental clean-up is expensive.”

The city is most actively looking at Site A at this time, but if those concerns prove to be warranted, it might have to pass.

“If Site A proves to be too expensive we will go right to Site B and so on until we find a site that will meet both our cost and functional requirements,” Ruller said. “I am confident we have sites that will work within the budget, I’m just not certain yet which site it will be and exactly when we’ll be able to make that determination.”

Site B and its exact location are a little less known. It will be at or near the end of College Street, according to Ruller, but depending on the property pricing and the actual design (a two-story building has a different footprint than a one-story building), it could involve five to seven properties and some different arrangements.

According to Portage County property records, the appraised value of the properties on that road range from $95,000 to $184,800, with most of the properties falling between $125,000 and $155,000. Using an average of $140,000 per property and the potential for seven properties, that would put the total appraised value at $980,000, not far from Site A’s evaluation.

Lee said that while Site B doesn’t have the environmental concerns that Site A does, it also has more property owners, which could be problematic if one or more is intent on not selling.

The city is also currently in the process of interviewing architectural firms for the design of the new building and is in pricing discussions with its top pick, David Sommers and Associates, according to Ruller. Once an architect is chosen, Ruller will bring that decision to City Council for approval in late April or May. City Council must also approve the final building site once chosen.

Ruller said that he’d like to have these plans “nailed down yesterday,” but that the city is taking its time to make sure the right decision is made.

“This is an extremely important project to City Council and the community so we are proceeding with great deliberation at each step to make sure that we stay on track to deliver a modern public safety building that meets the needs of a professional Police Department and ensures the safety of everyone in our community for decades to come,” Ruller said. “That’s a big responsibility but we’re going to make sure that we live up to the trust that’s been invested in us.”

Once everything is sorted out, a 2015-2016 construction schedule is “workable,” according to Ruller, assuming there are no major roadblocks as the process continues to unfold.

Contact Ryan Lewis at [email protected].