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Voters Will Be Asked To Ante Up For New Police Station

Council to place 0.25 percent income tax hike request on November ballot.

is moving forward with plans to place a citywide income tax increase for a new police facility on the Nov. 6 ballot, but at a reduced rate of 0.25 percent .

Councilman Wayne Wilson said Wednesday the percentage reduction is the lowest the city can possibly go and still achieve its goal of constructing a “long-overdue building” for the Kent Police Department.

The proposed hike would permanently raise the city income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.25 percent.

Council also modified its ordinance verbiage to indicate that funds generated by the measure – about $1.3 million annually – would be used for property acquisition, design, construction, maintenance and repairs, future expansion or replacement of a new police facility.

The wording change was suggested by council member Tracy Wallach, who believes city voters would be more inclined to approve the issue if funds were earmarked for a specific purpose.

The ballot issue also will include provisions stating police salary expenses would not be paid from the fund and that any excess money, after paying debts, would be placed into a contingency or reserve fund for future police facility expenses. That fund would be capped at $1 million and anything over that would be transferred to the streets and sidewalks fund.

The ordinance had its first reading Wednesday, but needs to be fast-tracked from this point on. Clerk of Council Linda Jordan pointed out the measure would need final approval during a special Aug. 1 council session to meet the Porage County Board of Elections' Aug. 8 filing deadline for November ballot issues.

Councilman Garret Ferrara – who said he recognizes the need for and supports a new police facility – voted against placing the ordinance on first reading because he thinks the city should be better prepared to present the issue "in a cohesive manner" to the voting public.

Ferrara said the ballot issue is “doomed to fail at the polls” if city officials don’t have details to share with voters regarding the police department’s specific needs, land and building costs and long-term operating expenses.

Councilman John Kuhar voted against the ordinance because it does not include a sunset provision.

The total estimate for replacing the aging police station is $18.36 million. That includes the cost of debt issuance, razing the existing police station, site preparation, furniture, fixtures and equipment, Budget and Finance Director Dave Coffee .

The city would use $1.2 million to pay the annual debt service on the new station, leaving only $100,000 in reserve each year to cover potential cost overruns and operating costs.

City administrators have been making the case for a new police and safety building for several years. The existing building was constructed in the 1920s.

One of the more serious issues is the city jail. The jail has not met state standards for several years, but state inspectors have so far given it a pass.

The building doesn't meet Ohio jail standards or the Americans with Disabilities Act, Police Chief Michelle Lee told the Record-Courier. The jail barely even meets city plumbing and electric codes.

"Deplorable" is how Mayor Jerry Fiala has described the police station. Wilson said the building's interior condition is embarrassing and poses potential safety hazards.

"We’ve had discussions about the police department and the building being in the condition it’s in, which is literally embarrassing it’s in such bad shape," Wilson said. "Luckily we haven’t had the state come down on us for it."

In 2010, a portion of the ceiling collapsed in the administrative offices during off-hours. The city has repaired the building brick facade, its multiple heating and air conditioning units — due to numerous additions over the years — wiring and other problems at great cost, Wilson said.

don schnee July 21, 2012 at 08:59 PM
i was trying to make a joke. colonel klink would have gotten it.
Laurel Myers Hurst July 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Having never been in that funeral home, its difficult for me to imagine what business would thrive there. It's a difficult transition, funeral home to anything else, but a jail or justice center seems promising. No joke.
mk July 25, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Question to you and your working conditions; does the roof leak? ceiling fall in on you? do you have people working 24/7? do you have bugs, mice and rats? does the basement flood? has the building been remodeled so many times you freeze in the winter and perspire in the summer because the heating and cooling system does not work? This "building" was build in the 1920's for the fire department and has been added onto and added onto. It is time for a new building.
Teresa K. July 25, 2012 at 01:14 PM
@mk: the police station must hide it well from the public. If the roof leaks and the ceiling is falling in on you/ or anyone else, are there accident reports and hospital visits? if there are mice and rats are there exterminator bills? are the critters being allowed to simply reproduce? If the building has been remodeled that many times and still has these problems, I think they need new remodelers for sure. No one is saying the police don't deserve a new building. We are merely saying now is not the time. Give the economy some more time to recover.
James Thomas July 26, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Will there be any way for people who work in Kent but don't live there to be credited with the extra .25% tax? To my knowledge my city only credits 2% in tax reciprocity. Couldn't it be considered a form of theft to take money in this manner? Would it not be "Taxation Without Representation"?

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