City Notes: Westerville making slow progress on police-court facility

David Collinsworth
City of Westerville

Shovels have not yet hit the dirt, but progress has been made the past several weeks on the voter-approved police and court facility, a project that moves the Westerville Division of Police, emergency communications (911), mayor’s court and records from Uptown to south Westerville’s Huber Village Boulevard. The construction to consolidate these operations and streamline certain city facilities could begin as soon as January.

David Collinsworth

Like any major capital project, it has not been without some surprises, namely the Oct. 1 opening of bids. If you have attempted any home-improvement project in the past 12 months, you know construction and contractor demand is significantly higher than supply in central Ohio. Add to that COVID-19 issues and a recent spike in building-material costs, and the bids came in higher than expected. As a result, a number of additive alternates will not be awarded with this initial project. However, staff and council are working on a phased approach so that the core project can proceed, later adding some of those optional components when conditions change and resources materialize. 

More:Westerville's $16.7 million police-court facility construction expected to begin soon

The good news is that the city has received an Aaa bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service and an AAA from Standard & Poor’s for debt to be issued for the construction of the voter-approved facility. Bids on the 20-year bonds recently were received, and the city will be able to issue this debt at an average interest cost of 1.67%, one the lowest borrowing costs the city has seen in the past several decades. This means the city will pay significantly less in debt service than planned, which ultimately will have a positive impact on the voter-approved millage rate to be levied for the project.  

This distinction is the 11th-consecutive Aaa rating, representing the highest achievable bond rating available to cities and reserved for organizations that meet the highest-quality, lowest-credit risk criteria for investors. It’s a rare feat in municipal government, as there aren’t many cities in Ohio who can claim dual Aaa/AAA bond ratings. 

So with this project, the city not only secured the best funding option, but it also will reuse a building, lowering overall development costs and reutilizing about 28,000 square feet of space.

As this project moves along, the plan to consolidate the buildings owned by the city in and around Uptown will begin taking shape. When voters considered the issue last year, the city proposed the eventual selling of properties where staff members are based (once the new headquarters is online).

Later next year, a more defined timeline of the selling and potential redevelopment of 28 S. State St. (the former post office), the old Armory and the city building at 64 E. Walnut St. will be advanced. 

The memorial assets at the Armory will be moved to a new Veterans Memorial Park to be developed at the Westerville Sports Complex, and departments on Walnut Street will move into the current police headquarters once vacated and remodeled. The mayor’s-court site will transition into a police substation of sorts, where officers could stop to prepare reports or meet with individuals as needed.

The community’s support of this project has been important to the police division as officers respond and evolve to serve a growing and changing Westerville. Working together, the 2022 opening of the new headquarters and court facility will make all of us proud of our community partnership in public safety. Follow the project at www.westerville.org/police.

David Collinsworth is Westerville’s city manager.