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May 27, 2020

4/29/2020 1:20:00 PM
Council eyes new police station
It was a night of firsts for the North Vernon City Council as the majority of members "zoomed" in to participate.

Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Gerkin made arrangements for the computer application to be used as social distancing is embraced by officials in an effort to safely conduct city business.

Those attending in person maintained well over six feet apart from each other and one, Jerry Lamb, flipped pages of documents wearing blue latex gloves.

The possibility of constructing a new police station dominated the meeting, with North Vernon Police Sgt. Craig Kipper making a short report on a committee he has led about the possibility of constructing a new police department.

Last year, Kipper presented a building assessment for the current police department located on 101 N. Madison Avenue in downtown North Vernon. Over the past year, "an internal group and some city councilors met to delve into this issue and came to the conclusion a new building is the best solution." Those meeting included Brad Bender and Council members Jack Kelley and Brian Hatfield.

Kipper presented an 11-page report, It noted:

"We feel it would be more beneficial and cost effective to the city of North Vernon to build a new police department instead of purchasing an existing building and remodeling to our needs. We do not feel it is feasible to remodel the current police department."

From there, the report featured nine pages of photos, two per page, of city-owned property and private properties being considered for the location of the new police station. The report noted "We are not endorsing any one location and this is only intended to provide options."

Some of the properties listed are not currently for sale and it is not known if the owner would even consider selling the property.

City properties considered by the committee were the department's current location downtown; the old city pool at the city park; the burned out area at the corner of Fifth and Old Hwy. 50 downtown; and Tripton Park off Buckeye Street.

Private properties eyed by the committee are: the EMA building on Industrial Drive; the car wash on North State Street; the property at North State and Henry Street; Main Street at Jennings St.; the Armory on Madison Ave.; North State at Poplar St.; PNC Bank drive-up on Main St.; the corner of Main Street and Jackson St; the old Bi-Rite on North State St.; the old Union Bank at the SR 3&7 split; the old feed mill on Fourth Street; and UV Beach on Old State Rd. 3.

The report concluded, "Before we can do any more planning on a new police department, we need to know what direction we want to go. Before we can do any type of design work or estimates, we need a location.

"With budgets coming up, we would like to start saving money now for future costs.

"If tearing down the current police department and building on the location is the option, we will need a temporary location to move to."

The sergeant noted the committee "needs to know what direction (to go in). We never had a yea or nay."

Councilor Brian Hatfield was the first to respond and agreed a new building was needed by saying "There is a need for it, I think."

Currently, the city police operate out of a 2300 sq. ft. facility. Kipper reported the committee believes a two-story 7500 sq. ft. building with a basement would be the ideal. It would include an office for the chief, interview rooms, breathalyzer room, an operations area, and plenty of room to store evidence.

According to a local contractor Kipper consulted with, cost to build would be around $200/sq. ft, putting the 7500 sq. ft. project at $1.5 million, plus cost of land, if purchased.

The question of the night was whether to proceed with this issue.

Jack Kelley noted the Council needed to develop "a five-year plan" and to consider setting aside money each year to help fund the project.

Baron Wilder noted he'd "like to use a city-owned property" and his "first choice" was the burned out area downtown at the corner of Fifth and Old Hwy. 50.

Jerry Lamb said that with tax issues it is "tough to make a decision. I'm not against it."

Trent Wisner noted "The budget will drive the decision."

And Shawn Gerkin, clerk-treasurer, opined that if the Council voted to proceed with construction, "We're gonna bond this out, I am sure."

This discussion will continue at the Council, Next week, we'll look at last year's report about the current police station.





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