Westerville's police department and mayor's court could be moving out of City Hall to the suburb's south side.
Officials presented plans June 5 to purchase a two-story office building at 229 Huber Village Blvd. that would be renovated to house some of the operations and adjacent land at 249 Huber Village Blvd. to develop a new government building.
The complex would be dubbed the Westerville Justice Center.
The site, just north of Interstate 270, would cost about $2.25 million, including inspection fees and utility costs through the year's end.
City Manager David Collinsworth said the move would address space constraints in the current police building at 29 S. State St. – specifically a lack of storage, some of which is currently rented off-site – and a shooting range that needs significant upgrades.
The plan would also free up Uptown Westerville parking spaces that are reserved for police and provide a secure entrance for mayor's court, which currently only has one via the public lobby, he said.
The city council could vote on the first step as early as June 19, authorizing Collinsworth to execute a purchase agreement.
"This is the intersection of a need with an opportunity, and it seemed like a good one for us to pursue," Collinsworth said.
The city entered into a contract May 16 and has 75 days to inspect the office building. After that, Collinsworth can close on the contract within 15 days.
Eventually, officials hope to relocate employees working in two other buildings to City Hall: off-site police operations at 28 S. State St. and several city departments at 64 E. Walnut St. The council on June 5 asked Collinsworth to obtain estimated values for those buildings that the city might sell if the plan moves forward.
For about a decade, plans for addressing a lack of space at City Hall, 21 S. State St., have centered on an old armory at 240 S. State St. that the city purchased in 2007 for $500,000, Collinsworth said. But it's now clear the 2-acre site isn't big enough and no adjacent property is available.
The office building the city now hopes to purchase is 37 years old and has about 28,500 square feet. It's owned by New Castle Holdings LLC, according to the Franklin County auditor's office.
The vacant land next to it would allow for construction of a more than 30,000-square-foot facility, for about 60,000 square feet total on 4.5 acres.
The current 24,000-square-foot police facility at 29 S. State St. was dedicated in 1988. Since then, the police department has grown from 49 full-time officers to 75 while the city's population has increased from about 29,000 to nearly 40,000.
The new construction at Huber Village Boulevard would likely require voter approval of a bond issue, likely 1 mill or less, Collinsworth said.
The earliest an issue would appear on a ballot would be spring of 2019.
"We want to take the time to have community conversations," he said.
The next public discussion on the matter was scheduled at a June 12 work session at City Hall.