Final plans to build a long-awaited new police station are within sight of Bexley City Council, but members are still offering residents one last opportunity to have their say before they commit to the project.
"There’s just a hesitancy to pull the trigger," described Police Chief Larry Rinehart after the Oct. 7 special meeting where council delayed appropriating an additional $850,000 from the unencumbered general fund for the new police facility. "It seems as though there is always some delay. We’ll just keep doing our jobs and doing the best we can do and see how it shakes out."
Councilwoman Robyn Jones, a member of council’s Finance and Judiciary Committee, said council decided to only hear the first reading of the legislation during the Oct. 7 special meeting. The vote has been postponed to the Oct. 14 meeting of Bexley City Council, which will be held at 7 p.m. at city hall, 2242 E. Main St.
A Citizens Police Advisory Committee has pushed for a new station for the better part of a decade, and property for a new station on Delmar Avenue was purchased last spring.
"I was hoping the Finance Committee would agree we would go forward tonight," Jones admitted. "But most of council just wasn’t prepared to pass this tonight. We wanted to give the public another opportunity to give their input."
Jones said it is time for the city to build a new police station, noting the 55-year-old building, which was once a fire station, has puddles of water in the shooting range, inadequate locker room facilities and is otherwise outdated for a law enforcement agency.
"It’s unacceptable," she said. "I think everybody agrees with that. But I think everybody also agrees that we’ve been in a real bind financially."
Jones said she is hoping council will agree to suspend the rules on Oct. 14 and adopt the additional appropriations for the project on the second reading of the legislation.
"Many people will be extremely disappointed if there is another delay," Jones said.
Rinehart is among those who were hoping to see council move forward with the project.
"I was very hopeful that tonight, finally, after so many years of debate, we would get the go-ahead to proceed with a new police station," he said. "However, I remain optimistic that we will get to a point in the future where council will vote to begin the project."
Rinehart said the building is not adequate for a modern police department. He pointed out there is no safe room in the lobby for a citizen fleeing in distress, no private interviewing areas, and parts of the police department are not secure.
In addition, Rinehart said there are serious mold issues stemming from years of water leaks.
He said his staff is as professional as can be, but he does believe the building issues affect morale to a point.
"I have never worked with a finer group. This is one of the finest police agencies anywhere," he said. "For 10 years they have been told there will be another police facility. But now they say they will believe it when they see it."
Rinehart said he realizes it is hard for council to spend that kind of money. Bids for the project have ranged from $5.4 to $5.9 million.
"I think that council believes that an adequate police facility is vital to the future health of this police agency in terms of recruiting and retaining the best police employees," he said. "We do have some tremendous support on city council. I believe that will ultimately carry the day."
Rinehart said he hopes residents understand how important the new police facility will be to the future of Bexley.
"Ultimately, a new police facility is vital to the future safety of this community. We’re talking about paying forward for the safety of Bexley’s children and grandchildren," Rinehart said. "Sometimes it’s hard to spend that kind of money for a future that is not immediately seen to us. This is about being able to walk the streets of our city 10 years from now."