Wednesday, October 15, 2008

John Matuszak reports: New police headquarters for Bexley police.

It's an all-points bulletin - Bexley will have a new police station.

On Oct. 14, after a decade of debate and indecision, Bexley city council voted 5-1 to approve $850,000 in additional spending for the police station project, paving the way for a groundbreaking in the next couple of weeks.

A meeting of the Board of Control - made up of the mayor, auditor an council president - will be held to award one of seven construction bids for the station.

Council President Matt Lampke cast the lone no vote, expressing concern over the future financing of the $7.4 million station with the city's increasingly tight budget. He re-stated his preference for having residents vote on a bond issue for the station.

Lampke did vote yes to allow the ordinance on the additional funding to go forward on its second reading. Councilman Mark Masser was absent, and six votes were needed to suspend the third and final reading.

Councilwoman Robyn Jones commented that the project has had more than enough discussion and was overdue for a final vote.

The 20,000 square-foot station, replacing a 55-year-old building about one-quarter of that size, is slated to be built on property purchased earlier this year on Delmar Avenue on the city's north end.

Councilman Ben Kessler, who was instrumental in shifting the focus of the project to the Delmar site as a cost-saving measure, pointed out that the current station is "literally falling down" and needs to be replaced.

Kessler added that, regardless of what happens with the station, the city is going to have to make drastic changes in its finances in the coming year.

Mayor John Brennan is convening a citizens task force to study the city's revenue and expenditures, and he expects to have recommendations by next April or May. Those recommendations could include a tax increase request on the ballot.

To get the city through it current budget crunch, council could also enact a temporary reduced income tax credit without a vote of the residents, according to Brennan.

The current budget picture has Bexley's end of the year balance down to $200,000 by the end of 2009.

Mayor Brennan told council he has been able to squeeze spending a little bit more, but he can't get to the $1 million balance Kessler had asked for.

Budget discussions will continue at a finance committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct, 21 at 6 p.m. in city council chambers.

In other business, city council voted 5-1 to defeat a proposed restriction on picketing in front of a specific residence.

City attorney Lou Chodosh determined that the law would be unconstitutional and unenforceable.

The ordinance was drafted after residents complained about protesters outside the home of a Bexley doctor who performs abortions.

Chodosh predicted long, expensive legal challenges on First Amendment grounds if the ordinance passed. And he added that it wouldn't keep picketers from marching up and down the street.

He also pointed out that the city already has at least 12 ordinances on the books to handle protesters who get out of hand.

"Leaving this alone is the best course of action we can take. We can protect our citizens without it," Chodosh said.

Again, Lampke cast the lone vote in favor of the ordinance, arguing that police officers culd be trained to enforce the law.

The measure drew a large crowd during debate last month, before i as tabled for further study. No residents spoke or or against the ordinance at last night's meeting.

An America in Bloom award was presented by ground maintenance supervisor Mark Moore. Bexley received a first-place award among 32 cities entered nationwide for landscaping, and a second-place awardamong six cities with populations between 10,000 and 15,000.

Moore said Bexley needs to mount a large-scale volunteer effort to earn a first-place mention next year.

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Design is copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2008. All rights reserved. John Matuszak.

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