Bexley police chief asks for timeline on station project

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 Messenger photos by John Matuszak
Andy Bashore, maintenance superintendent for Bexley’s service department, leads City Council members on a tour of the work space for 23 employees Sept. 25. Council wants to move the department to property on Sheridan Avenue to make way for a new police station that would replace the crowded, aging building now in use. The service garage, built in 1951, has its own inadequacies, according to Service Director Dorothy Pritchard, who pointed out that the lockers came from a high school renovation and that the basement locker room only has one exit in case of a fire. Space is shared with the streets and parks departments, and the police department has storage areas scattered throughout the complex, such as this cubby hole for recovered bicycles and other items.

Bexley City Council is plowing forward with plans to move the service department to make way for a new police station, but Chief Larry Rinehart is frustrated that the projects appear to be in low gear.

At the Sept. 25 City Council meeting, Rinehart said he did not see "an optimistic timeline" for breaking ground for a new police station, which he predicted is a couple of years away.

"All I ask is that you help me get a good timeline" to assure officers that the cramped and aging station will be replaced in the near future, Rinehart said.

Earlier this year plans were modified to locate a police station on the site where the service garage and offices are located, behind city hall and the current station.

The current station, built in 1955, would then be used for public meetings and council chambers.

Negotiations were undertaken to obtain property at Fifth and Cassady avenues, outside of the city limits, for the service department, but officials now want to buy a lot between Sheridan and Ferndale avenues on the city’s southwest side.

An ordinance to appropriate $50,000 to acquire two properties was passed by council at the meeting.

David Long, director of building services, explained that administrators decided not to spend money to move the department to property the city would not own.

The garage complex was built around 1951 and shares office and storage space with the streets and parks departments and the police station.

The city would not begin building the new service department facilities before late spring or early summer, Councilman Matt Lampke said, and ground would not be broken for a new police station until the move is completed.

The estimated cost of the new police station is $5.7 million, in current construction costs.

Rinehart said he has been informed that, for every year the project is delayed, costs will rise 5 percent.

Costs aren’t the only thing rising. The chief said he was called in over the weekend by a supervisor bothered by a perceived lack of progress in replacing a building where the toilets overflow into the locker rooms and mold falls from ceilings dampened by a leaking roof. Sometimes the automatic door locks quit working, which is a safety issue, Rinehart said.

Having a station with no showers and where officers can’t change into their uniforms without bumping elbows with each other is "demoralizing and demeaning," the chief asserted.

He reiterated his concern that these conditions will make it more difficult to recruit and retain younger officers who are drawn to communities with modern facilities that are "recruiting aggressively."

Council members offered assurances that plans are proceeding, and added that working in Bexley has other benefits.

"Many of the officers will get over the hump" until the new station is realized, Councilman Rick Weber said, and that the city has been able to retain officers despite the physical deficiencies.

"I’ve learned that some things take longer to get done," Council President Mark Masser, the senior member of council, commented.

Mike Simpson, chairman of the Main Street Redevelopment Commission, reported that the exterior design for the police station has been approved. The commission approved the site plan in July, and is awaiting landscaping and lighting plans, he added.

Councilman John Rohyans has been researching the process for obtaining certification for Leadership in Energy and  Environmental Design (LEED), to make the station more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

The cost for obtaining LEED certification for similar projects has been around $100,000, Rohyans learned.

Other costs have arisen for the project. Council has approved spending $19,000 for redesign work in conjunction with its communications systems, and is considering a $37,000 expenditure for a consultant for the police department’s communications systems.

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