New police facility in final stages of planning

Adam McParlane

After more than a decade of planning, the city of Kent is preparing to fund the construction of a new 30,000 square-foot police facility.

The current facility is non-compliant with regulations set by Ohio’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Ohio building codes and fire alarm codes.

Despite discontinuing cosmetic repairs of the police facility in 2011, the city of Kent spent approximately $250,000 in preventative maintenance in 2012. The new facility has a projected budget of $18 million. While the new building will cost approximately $13 million, an additional $3 to $5 million is budgeted for land acquisition and other fees.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have $18 million sitting in an account ready to replace the building,” Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said. “So that means without hard cash, just like anybody else, we have to go to the bank and ask for money, and our way of going to the bank and asking for money is bonding.”

The city of Kent could afford to pay for the new police facility through the issuance of a bond.

The $1.2 million required annually to repay the bond will be generated by either a temporary earned-income-tax increase of 0.25 percent or a reduction in city services. The decision will be up for voting in November.

If the tax passes, it will take effect in 2014 and expire when the new facility is paid off. Only residents working in Kent or in a city with a tax rate less than 2.25 percent would be affected. The collected funds of this tax can only be used to pay for the new police facility. Earnings the proposed tax would affect include tips, wages, self-employment earnings and rental income. The tax would not affect pensions, unemployment, interest or Social Security benefits.

“As an example, residents with an annual income of $50,000 or less would pay approximately $10 more a month or about $120 extra per year,” Kent Police Chief Michelle Lee said.

If the tax fails, the city of Kent will shift $1.2 million annually from city services. Services that may be considered for reduction or elimination include leaf pickup, street sweeping, street repairs and snow plowing. No city personnel or services are at immediate risk, and the decision for reductions would be made only if the proposed tax increase fails.

On a tour of the facility, Captain Jayme Cole called to attention the major issues and inefficiencies of the current police facility. In 2010, the building suffered a partial roof collapse from water damage. The south and east walls also began to bow and pull away from the roof that year. The walls have been anchored back in place, but Cole said they are only a temporary fix meant to last five years.

The basement, where the armory is currently housed, has flooded twice and requires constant dehumidification. Asbestos is present within the facility, but it is not a danger to the staff unless it is disturbed.

Other issues and inefficiencies arose after the facility underwent four separate renovations. Most rooms within the building are unsecured, the forensics lab is unable to perform chemical tests because it is not equipped with a proper ventilation system and instead, it uses a makeshift system that is no more powerful than a typical home’s kitchen ventilation fan.

The majority of evidence must be stored off-site due to lack of space, communication equipment and computer servers are housed in storage closets with no central air conditioning, locker rooms and showers are located on different floors, and prisoners are transported through the same area patrol cars are repaired.

“It does not make fiscal sense to continue to invest in major-needed repairs,” Lee said. “Numerous studies have shown it would cost more to bring the current building up to code than it would be to construct a new building.”

The design of the new facility is still in concept, and no date has been set to begin construction. The new building will be situated at the corner of East Summit and South Water streets, immediately south of the current building.

Police services will continue in the current facility during construction of the new building. The current building will be demolished upon completion of the new facility. The use of land of the current building after demolition has yet to be determined.

“It could be any number of things,” Ruller said. “It could be parking, it could be green space, it could be tried to be marketed, but it’s probably too small to sell, but we’ve certainly heard all those items up for discussion.”

If the land is sold, the money generated would be used to pay off the new building.

Early estimates predict construction could be complete by late 2015 or early 2016.

The state has not issued a deadline for the Kent Police Department to bring its facility up to code.

“We have kept them plugged into our process since 1995 when we started analyzing the building,” Ruller said. “They’ve seen that it’s a good-faith effort on the city’s part to try to get ourselves into compliance. Barring some sort of catastrophe or major lawsuit, the state is going to work with us.”

The current police facility was built in 1924 to serve as a fire department. Through the years, the building has undergone four major renovations and has been used for multiple city services.

Contact Adam McParlane at [email protected].