Bexley City Council has scheduled a meeting for July 19 at 6 p.m., at which members hope to reach a consensus on how to finance construction of a new police station.
They will also hold a public hearing July 24 at 7 p.m. to hear the opinions of residents before possibly going ahead with a bond issue on the November ballot.
At issue is the replacement of the city’s 55-year-old police station, which city officials and architects have determined is inadequate for a modern law enforcement agency.
While there is agreement that the station needs to be replaced, council members and administrators differ on how to pay for the estimated $6 million project.
Options include financing the construction with existing funds, or asking voters to support a tax levy. Representatives could also seek approval for borrowing for the project without raising taxes.
Council members Robyn Jones and Mark Masser favor using available funds, while Matt Lampke and Hanz Wasserburger are leaning toward seeking voter approval.
Councilman Jeff McClelland said he is seeking unspecified information on borrowing, an effort that has been complicated because the city’s bond counsel, Rich Simpson, is on an eight-week cross-country bicycle trip.
City Auditor Larry Heiser wants to take the issue to the voters, but Mayor David Madison has warned of the consequences of a "no" vote on such an important issue.
The Franklin County auditor has certified that a $6 million, 25-year bond issue would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $62 a year in additional taxes.
The city is waiting for the final price tag from architects at Horne and King.
City Attorney James Gross pointed out that, if the price tag turns out to be higher than the $6 million estimate, council will have to ask the county auditor to certify the millage for the adjusted amount.
Receiving that certification usually takes only a few days, Gross noted.
Council faces an August 23 deadline for filing with the board of elections to get on the fall ballot.
If there is not a consensus on going to the voters, the deadline won’t matter, Masser said.
Lampke said that council should hear from the voters before making that decision.
Bexley resident Mike McKinney voiced his support for putting the issue up for a vote.
"If you are going to sign a $6 million note with my name on it, I have a right to have a say in it," McKinney stated. "I hope the residents have a chance to vote on it."
While conceding that the station is "sub-standard," McKinney took issue with what he characterized as the "hyperbole" of an editorial by Chief Larry Rinehart outlining the deficiencies of the facility and its detrimental effect on police service.
McKinney questioned the chief’s assertion that the condition of the station will hurt recruitment now and in the future.
Bexley was able to attract Rinehart even with the inadequate station, McKinney said. "If we have ‘C’-quality people, who are they?"
It’s up to the city to conduct tours of the station and provide information that will sway residents, McKinney asserted. "Convince the electorate that this makes sense."
Rinehart warned against delaying the project that has been discussed for several years.
"There comes a time when you need to move forward," he said.
And if council decides to go with a ballot issue, someone has to lead the charge, he added.
"For those who are committed to going to the voters, be prepared to tell me who is going to do the fundraising, who is going to go door-to-door, who is going to run this campaign," Rinehart said. "If it’s me, I’ll do it," although he doubted that officials would want him to step away from running the department for several weeks.
In other business, council voted to place three city charter amendment proposals on the fall ballot.
The amendments deal with clarifying when a majority vote is required, the employment status of the police chief and merging some of the responsibilities of the Planning Commission and the Main Street Redevelopment Commission.
Council passed on sending the pontentially controversial issue, a change in the residency requirement for the city attorney, to the ballot, opting to allow the charter review commission to debate this next year.
Mayor Madison offered a reminder that the Bexley Celebrations Association will be holding a meeting July 18 at 7 p.m. at Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., to recruit volunteers to coordinate next year’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks.
Longtime volunteers Cindy Phillips and Crystal Salt have announced that they will be giving up those responsibilities, and it is imperative that residents step up if the activities are to continue.