Focus has shifted in the search for a new Wellington police station.
Village officials announced July 25 they considering the purchase of a plaza at 147 and 149 East Herrick Ave., which with a planned addition would provide police with more than 6,500 square feet of working space.
That area would be a significant upgrade from the 1,067 square feet officers have now in their longtime home adjacent to village hall.
For the past two years the former Elyria Savings and Trust building on East Herrick has been tabbed as the likely new police station. That property lies next door to the plaza.
Officials say their new target would require much less remodeling.
“The front of the building is essentially walk-in ready,” said mayor Hans Schneider. “The back half is where there would be extensive renovations with the addition. We had a chance to tour it about a week after our bicentennial breakfast in January and came away with the thought that this was a much better fit for the department in the long-term and short-term.”
An add-on to the building would include a sally port, storage and processing rooms, and a police armory.
Space in the current station has forced police into decisions such as combining locker and dispatch areas, washing dishes in the bathroom, and storing urine samples in a small refrigerator located near an eating area.
“Our issues in our station are getting worse,” said police chief Tim Barfield. “My office has turned back into a storage room. My sergeant and lieutenant are literally in closets and the lieutenant shares space with all of the IT equipment. That makes his office extremely hot and makes it very hard to hear anything going on. That just doesn’t make sense.”
When combining purchase and renovation prices, it would cost the village roughly $1.5 million to move the station to either site.
An agreement has been struck with the plaza’s owners that gives the village exclusive purchasing rights through Nov. 30. The cost of the building itself is $465,000.
Three businesses currently inhabit the site: Schlather Insurance, Hammersmith & Ditz LLC, and attorney Alecia Vidika’s office.
Village manager Steve Dupee said the plaza owners have been made aware of the village’s intentions and that efforts will be made to help the businesses find a different home in Wellington in the event the move takes place.
“We would look to negotiate something with the existing tenants,” he said. “The building has been on the market for a long time and I believe offers have been made in the past for those tenants to purchase the building. We absolutely want to retain these folks. It’s certainly an important consideration.”
A new police station is largely contingent on a 0.75 percent local income tax increase that will be put before Wellington voters this November.
That move would put the village’s rate at 1.75 percent but also be coupled with an equal tax credit for those who live in Wellington but work and pay local taxes in other communities.
“Officers have had talks with citizens about whether they want to vote for a tax increase,” said Barfield. “When someone reads a headline that says, ‘tax increase,’ those people say no. But when they’re told the things that the tax increase would do, they say they’d absolutely support it.”
Wellington has had the same one percent rate since 1972 and along with North Ridgeville is the only Lorain County community to operate at one percent, Schneider said.
“We would regroup and make a decision,” he said when asked about the likelihood of a new station if the tax measure is voted down.
“Right now, we’re really focused on putting our best foot forward and being very open with the public about this being where we want to move. As the chief has said, the space our officers is in is far too small. Many people think all you need to give police is bulletproof vests, guns, uniforms, and cars. But it goes way beyond that. In order for them to properly do their jobs, safely and securely and without liability, we need them in a much bigger space. This new space would serve this community for decades.”
Voters rejected a proposed half-percent increase by a 738-297 margin in 2004.
Barfield said only having one jail cell in the current police station has led to a consistent string of difficult situations. Plans for the new station include two cells — one for men and one for women.
“Our jail cell just barely beats standards and as standards change, we’re going to lose the ability to even hold someone,” he said. “You can’t house women and men or juveniles and adults together. These new cells would be sight and sound separated, which means we’d be able to house at least two people. The lack of space combined with the lack of manpower at certain parts of the day can’t continue.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.