Bexley changes plan for police station again

Over the years, Bexley’s planning for a new police station has had more plot twists than an episode of "Law and Order," as officials pursue the best location.

The latest discussions have centered on moving the service department and building the station on that spot, but Mayor David Madison has another idea for moving both operations off the city hall lot and relocating them adjacent to each other.

The latest news came during the Oct. 9 City Council meeting, as Lee Nathans, with the Bexley Citizens Police Advisory Commission, expressed impatience with the timeline for replacing the 55-year-old police station.

"I feel very strongly that this is a project you all have agreed to, and that will affect the future of the Bexley Police Department," Nathans said. "My concern is that this gets built without delay."

His comments echoed statements made by Police Chief Larry Rinehart, who is worried that the poor condition of the crowded station could hurt morale and recruiting within the department.

Relocating the service department could delay the construction of a police station by one or two years, Nathans warned, and he would like to see a plan that would allow for groundbreaking in 2008.

This comes after years of debate over the future of the city hall site that began in 1998, he pointed out. In the interim, projected costs have risen and the station has deteriorated to what Nathans called "almost a Third-World facility."

Nathans was part of a committee that recommended two and a half years ago that a new station be built on the site of the current building, a plan backed by architects and engineers.

But this June the Main Street Redevelopment Commission, which has authority to approve the plans, shifted gears and gave thumbs up to a plan for placing the station on the service department site.

Officials reasoned that this would allow for future commercial development on the city hall property, and the existing police station could be renovated and used for public meetings.

These latest developments took place while he was out of the country, Nathans told council.

To avoid a long delay in getting the police station built, Nathans suggested that either a temporary location for the service department be found, or that the station be built on land that would not require a time-consuming move for the service facility.

Delmar Avenue on the north side could be one option, Nathans said, although Councilman Jeff McClelland responded that this option had been considered and would be expensive.

Madison announced that he was working on a plan that would solve the problem of moving both operations, that would be either connected or next door to each other, and located only two minutes from city hall.

The mayor did not want to divulge specifics, but said he would schedule a meeting in the next week or 10 days to inform representatives of the details.

The city is in negotiations to buy property on Sheridan Avenue near land it already owns for the service garage and offices. City Attorney James Gross reported that no progress has been made so far on a contract.

Bexley’s traffic engineer, Joe Ridgeway, is recommending that the city install a speed table to slow vehicles on College Avenue, along with other measures.

New idea on table for College Ave.

In other business, the city’s traffic engineer recommended several steps to teach drivers to slow down along College Avenue, but adding  a stop sign at Astor Avenue isn’t one of them.

Engineer Joe Ridgeway spoke to council’s safety committee and advised that a new traffic-slowing device called a speed table be installed 140 feet north of the intersection of College and Livingston Avenue.

The report comes in response to the concerns of College Avenue residents about speeding motorists and difficulty in being able to cross the street safely.

The speed table doesn’t deliver the violent jolt of a speed bump, and is more acceptable for emergency vehicles, Ridgeway explained, but still reminds drivers to slow down.

The device is made of rubber and creates less noise than a rumble strip. It is also portable and can be installed on a trial basis or moved to another location in the city, he added.

The estimated cost is $5,500 for materials and installation.

Ridgeway also recommended that edge lines be painted along the curbs to make it appear as if the street is narrower, which slows traffic, and that a second 25 miles per hour speed limit sign be installed on the same pole with a "Let Our Children Grow Up" sign.

Planting more trees, and a landscaped entry at the College-Livingston intersection (already in the planning stages) would also slow vehicles, Ridgeway said.

Adding stop signs often has the opposite effect, he explained, by changing driving patterns of people who then speed up to make up for the perceived loss of time, leading to more accidents.

"If the speed table doesn’t slow traffic, I doubt a stop sign will slow traffic," Ridgeway said.

College Avenue resident Hillary Warren pointed out that the city installed an additional stop sign on Cassady Avenue at Denver after the road was repaved and it has had a positive effect.

"We’re interested in making College more walkable for (Capital) students and families who live there," Warren said.

Chief Rinehart reported that target enforcement along College has led to 66 vehicles being stopped, with 25 warnings and 41 citations issued.

The department will be receiving a mobile traffic monitoring device that will count the number of cars passing and clock their speed, he announced.

Mayor Madison said he would bring an ordinance for the cost of the speed table to council in two weeks.

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