Pataskala City Council on Dec. 7 approved the 2016 budget, which includes $500,000 to spend on planning for a new police building.

Pataskala City Council on Dec. 7 approved the 2016 budget, which includes $500,000 to spend on planning for a new police building.

"There is a placeholder in the budget of $500,000 to move forward with planning," City Council President Melissa Carter said.

In 2016, Carter said, the buildings and grounds committee will work with Chief Bruce Brooks, Deputy Chief Michael Boals and other officers to plan for a new home for the Pataskala Division of Police.

"It will be a very calculated planning process and we really want to go step by step and plan and make sure we're doing what we need while being as fiscally responsible as possible," Carter said.

Mayor Mike Compton said the planning process should create a blueprint within four to eight months that City Council can use when construction is expected to begin in 2017.

"I'd like to turn a shovel of dirt over tomorrow, but I don't think that's going to happen," Compton said.

The police division is based in the former town hall building at 430 S. Main St. The headquarters are on the first floor and part of the basement. The Sterling Theater is on the second floor of the building.

Carter said the city has completed a needs assessment for the police division.

The assessment by Horne and King Architects of Dublin recommended the city build a 13,571-square-foot facility with a shelter for police vehicles.

Compton said the needs assessment showed a rough footprint and gave City Council a construction-cost estimate of $4 million to $5 million.

To save money, the assessment also recommended building on city-owned land south of the municipal building at 621 W. Broad St. and north of William V. Karr Park.

Carter said the location has not been confirmed.

"Really, nothing is final," she said. "The reason (the land behind the municipal building) makes it a No. 1 contender is because we own that land.

"To be able to afford a bond (for the building) and buying land in addition, we would not be able to do it without going back to the voters, and I have said I would not support any initiative to ask for more money from voters."

In August, when City Council reviewed the needs assessment, city officials learned they might be able to repay a $4 million to $5 million bond for the police building with lease revenue and general-fund money.

Finance director James Nicholson told City Council in August the city paid $150,000 to $250,000 annually for three years to retire the municipal-building debt at the end of 2014.

He said Pataskala collected $100,000 in lease revenue from municipal-building tenants in 2014, which could be used to retire debt issued for a police facility.

Carter said the building and grounds committee, which met Dec. 7, is considering new uses for the old town hall building, which would have two mostly vacant floors if the police move out.

"We want to maximize our rental potential," she said.

She said the basement could be used as a community meeting room and some of the city offices, including the public-utilities department and parks and recreation services, could be moved to the first floor.

Compton said the building could be used as some sort of community space, including meeting rooms or a community center.

"We have to have a firm plan in place for what we want to do with the old town hall to make it useful," he said.