April 26: Last town hall meeting about London’s levy request

The city of London is asking for a 0.5 percent increase in the city’s municipal income tax to help fund the fire and EMS department and to build a new community center and a new police department. This conceptual drawing shows what the new community center (on the left) and new police department (on the right) would like.

(Posted April 20, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London city leaders will hold one more town hall meeting before the May 3 primary election to review, answer questions, and hear comments about the city’s levy request.

The city is seeking a 0.5 percent increase in the municipal income tax to help fund the fire and EMS department and to build a new police department and a new community center. The tax would be on earned income (salaries and wages) only; it would not impact retirement income. The new buildings would be located on the city’s Walnut Street property with city hall. Most of the former school buildings on the property would be torn down to make room for the new buildings.

The fourth of four town hall meetings about the levy is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 26 at city hall, 20 S. Walnut St. Anyone who cannot attend the meeting is invited to send their comments or questions to Mayor Patrick Closser at pclosser@londonohio.gov or call the city administrative offices at (740) 852-3243. Those comments and questions will be shared at the meeting.

Links to recordings of the town hall meetings can be found on the city’s website.

If passed, the levy would raise the city’s income tax from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. Up to 0.25 percent of the 0.5 percent increase would go toward operating expenses for the fire and EMS department. The rest would go to debt service for the construction of the proposed new buildings. The estimated cost of the new buildings is $25 million.

At previous town hall meetings, Police Chief Glenn Nicol outlined the challenges his department faces in their current location at 10 E. First St. The primary problem, he said, is lack of adequate space.

The 6,000 square-foot former storefront is cramped. One of the downsides is lack of privacy for citizens and staff. People coming in off the street talk to staff inside the lobby where anyone else in the lobby can hear the discussion, Nicol said. The patrol area, which sits just beyond the front door, is an open area with no office separation for staff.

There isn’t enough space to separate the different functions of the department, the chief said. One example he gives involves the interview rooms. One of the rooms also houses the breath machine, and the other the fingerprint machine. Storage for technical equipment, records, evidence, and custodial supplies share spaces.

Security is an issue, too, when it comes to the prisoner holding room, a one-door open space. The computer and electronics equipment isn’t in as secure a spot as one would expect, Nicol said. More secure parking for the patrol vehicles is needed, too.

The congestion means traffic flow issues. The path to the women’s lockers goes through the technical/computer storage area. The path to the interview rooms goes through the patrol work area. In instances when multiple cases happen simultaneously, the station does not have adequate space to handle those cases and the people involved in them in separate spaces.

The new building would have three times the space as the current station, eliminating privacy, security, storage, and traffic flow issues, Nicol said. The new building also would be a source of civic pride, he added.

At previous town hall meetings, Nicol also has addressed the challenges the current community center faces. The center is housed in a former school building on the Walnut Street property. He said the building is deteriorating with parts of it falling down. It lacks handicap accessibility and sufficient spectator seating and isn’t heated in a way that would allow full-time offices. Restroom access and conditions are poor, he said. Space also is an issue as participation in the city’s recreation programs goes up.

The new community center would be a freestanding, 60,000 square-foot facility at the corner of First and Walnut streets. It would house two full-size courts and four lateral courts, an overhead, indoor walking track, multipurpose rooms, better on-site parking, sufficient spectator seating, and secure and adequate storage. The facility also would house the London Visual Arts Guild’s art center which currently occupies one of the former school buildings on the Walnut Street property.

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