XENIA — The City of Xenia is moving forward with plans for a new administration building and the renovation of the current city hall to accommodate the police department.
In a two-hour special session on Thursday, council viewed renderings from APP Architecture that featured a 20,000 square foot above-ground city hall and renovations to the existing city hall to allow the Xenia Police Division to expand operations to the first floor. The total project cost is between $7-8 million including furnishings, IT, debt service and other unknown costs.
The proposed city hall building would be located along West Main Street at Whiteman Street, currently the location of city parking lot No. 7. The estimated cost of the new building is $4.3 million, while renovating the existing building would cost slightly more than $2 million.
The police are currently housed in the lowest floor of city hall and are cramped in tight quarters without amenities such as adequate female locker rooms and interview areas for detectives.
Council authorized Xenia City Manager Brent Merriman to move to the next phase, which includes construction estimates.
But the aforementioned authorization did not come without concern from some council members. Most agreed the police need more room. But not everyone agreed on the cost.
“I am strongly opposed to this,” said Dale Louderback. “I can not spend $7 million of the taxpayers’ money on a new city hall. If we need more space, let’s use some of our empty buildings. It’d be the biggest mistake Xenia ever made. I don’t want to be a part of that.”
He added that residents made their wish list known when the city sent residents a survey seeking input.
“Where in the survey did the citizens say ‘hey, you know what would be nice … a new city hall,’ ” Louderback said, calling the new building a Taj Majal. His suggestion was to move the police to another location.
Louderback said he would rather use taxpayer money to improve downtown and increase economic development.
“The city is not growing and there’s a reason,” he said. “It’s because of our economic development. People don’t want to come to Xenia, Let’s put $1 million into economic development.”
Councilman John Caupp also advocated moving the police. But Merriman said that is not feasible. Dispatch can’t easily be moved from its present location without additional headaches and cost because the communication equipment is hard-wired to the tower. And given how closely Chief Randy Person and other police personnel work with dispatch, it would not be an ideal work situation, according to Merriman.
“The concept of physically relocating that while maintaining the operation would be extremely expensive,” he said.
Also, Merriman also said that moving some city offices to the lower floor, if the police moved out of the building, would not improve customer service and accessibility.
“We have looked at a multitude of alternatives,” Merriman said. “Any alternative that we would look at downtown … you’ve got an acquisition cost.”
Councilmembers Wesley Smith, Jeanne Mills, Marsha Bayless and Michael Engle indicated their desire to move forward. Engle said he would take the advice of city staff before approving the final plans and Mills stressed that she would make her final decision similar to how she handles her own finances.
The decision to move forward was 4-2, with Caupp voting no due to needing more time to evaluate and Louderback voting no for the aforementioned reasons. Council Vice-President Joshua Long had a work commitment and did not vote.
Council will get another look at the project when construction estimates are presented at another special meeting. Louderback insisted that meeting be televised.
“Does anyone have a problem with the public knowing what’s going on with their $7 million?” he asked.