Whitehall City Council was presented Oct. 23 with a plan to renovate a soon-to-be-vacated Army Reserve Center into a parks and recreation facility.
Peter Krajnak, of Rogers Krajnak Architects, Inc. council with the Preliminary Master Plan for the Whitehall Memorial U.S. Army Reserve Center, at 721 Country Club Drive.
The Land Redevelopment Authority (LRA), consisting of local residents, business interests, school district, city officials, and others, has been meeting since the spring to devise a use plan for the property.
The architectural firm is now ready to submit their designs, along with all necessary documentation from the LRA and the city to the government and HUD for review.
All documentation has to be submitted by Dec. 15.
In about two years the reserve center will close its doors, making the property available for another use. After months of thought and input, the LRA has designed a plan for the city to acquire the facility for parks and recreation use.
The plan would make the property a multi-purpose, community facility that would include all types of recreational opportunities, meeting rooms, office space, and even an art recreation area, and training facility for community training needs.
The front landscaping would be a community memorial in response to the veterans groups in Whitehall. It would be a garden area rather than a sculpture, but could be a place holder for something significant. There is room for future parking to be accessible to both Etna Road and Country Club Drive.
Also, Krajnak has drawings for future expansion of building additions with a room for large gatherings and a child care area. The center of the building that now faces the parking lot would become the main entrance for easy access.
As visitors enter, there will be a control center with a greeter. Both buildings would be equipped with handicap accessible restrooms and entrances.
The two-story building would have one stairway created at the end of the main second-story hallway, with an elevator installed in the center where an old staircase exists. There is one staircase currently on the opposite end of that hallway.
After the plans and documentation are submitted to the government, it will be reviewed, and probably sent back to Whitehall for revisions. Whitehall also has to demonstrate the financial ability to support the project. The next step would be public input for possible bonds or levies.
According to Krajnak, the building has “good bones.” Renovation construction is an estimated cost of $120 to $125 per square foot. New building construction would be about $225 to $275 per square foot.
In today’s dollar, the cost estimate for renovation, which includes site, construction, demolition, furnishings, and the whole project would be between $3.9 and $4.8 million. Additional renovations would cost about $12.5 to $15.5 million.
The government wants to know that they are giving the building away exactly for its specified use. There is no option to sell, and if Whitehall would walk away from the project, the government can take it back. If the city decides not to take it, it could go for public sale.
LRA Chairman Richard Pope, said, “We don’t need bells and whistles.”
He and Krajnak also noted that it would be possible to begin using the building as it is when acquired; however, Krajnak also warned that it would become costly and inconvenient to move people and offices to other areas of the building or out of the building during renovations when the time came.
According to Matt Shad, the former Whitehall economic development director who is serving as an interim consultant, the use chosen after all studies would be a use that will serve the community much more efficiently.
He pointed out that the best income-generating use would have been a nursing care facility. Selling for housing would not prove fruitful, either.
Firefighter of the Year
In other business, Brenden Cottrell was recognized as the firefighter/paramedic of the year, and will receive a $250 bonus. He is a member of Unit 1, and has been with the Division of Fire since 2004. Cottrell was also firefighter of the month in March.
The honoree strives to promote continuous training, and specializes in firefighter survival and rapid intervention training. Chief Tim Tilton added that Cottrell and his unit are some of the best in the country.
He also shared that the firefighter’s eye for detail in training may mean a new training center in the back of the station in the future.
Police Chief Richard Zitzke presented council with legislation to approve $134,650 to purchase new digital cameras for cruisers. For longer than he said he could remember, the department has used a system that records on VHS, and the quality is not as sharp.
He said that for years judges and juries have complained about the quality of the film making it difficult to see everything that transpires during an incident.
The new wireless system will enable an officer to pull up to the police station and immediately download it. If a judge or prosecutor requests the data, it can be sent to them on a DVD or via email. The current system costs $600 to $800 to repair because it is too old for any service contracts. The new one would have a three year service contract.
The camera is always on, and activates when beacons are on, and will back up 30 seconds of recording the incident. The officers have been able to test one for a few weeks, and love it, according to Zitzke. It is also the same recording technology used by NASCAR.
Councilman Leo Knoblauch announced that the rail crossing repairs on Yearling Road will begin by mid-November. It will include new signals, and concrete, as opposed to asphalt will be installed for better durability.
Council members, city officials and representatives of American Electric Power, Columbus Division of Police and Whitehall Police will meet Oct. 26 in an attempt to find a resolve between the cities where crime is concerned in the Maplewood/Napoleon area.
The next council meeting will be Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m.