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

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth and Westerville Division of Police Chief Charles Chandler stand in what eventually will be the lobby of the new Westerville police and court facility, 229 Huber Village Blvd.

Renovation work is expected to begin soon on a nearly $16.7 million Westerville police and court facility at 229 Huber Village Blvd., allowing the entire department to be under one roof and providing a space for community meetings in 2022. 

The facility is made possible by Westerville voters' approval of a 20-year, 0.96-mill bond issue in November 2019.

Westerville Division of Police Chief Charles Chandler said one of the great things about the facility will be the ability for police to bring the community in for such programs as women’s self-defense classes because the facility will be large enough for training space.

“This is actually going to bring the community into our house more often among us instead of us going out remotely doing things,” Chandler said. “And that’s more efficient and effective.”

He said the courtroom would double as a community room, allowing community organizations to access it when court isn’t in session.

Christa Dickey, Westerville community-affairs director, said Pepper Construction Co. of Ohio LLC was awarded the contract for the project Nov. 17 with a base bid of $16,737,054. She said Pepper's bid was 10% below the average of all bids received.

Pepper Construction, with offices in Dublin, as well as Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, has worked extensively in the Midwest and Upper Midwest regions of the country, providing the building-alteration and general-contracting needs of the public and private sectors, according to the city's award-recommendation document. A recent and ongoing large-scale project includes a $13.5 million Online Computer Library Center office renovation in Dublin.

City Manager David Collinsworth, who is retiring in January, said eight bids were received for the police and court project Oct. 1.

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

The bidding environment was positive from the standpoint of the competition,” Collinsworth said. “But they were about a million and a half or so above the architects' estimate and our initial budget. We will have to bring other money to the table from some other reserves, but we can handle that.”  

Collinsworth said a preconstruction meeting will be held within the next month, and shortly thereafter, construction trailers and equipment will start to arrive on site.

He said the city received eight add alternates that will be worked into the budget later because the bid was higher than expected. Add alternates are additional items of work that could be awarded as part of a contract if bids are within the budget specified in the contract.

“One big one in there that we really hoped to get done in the initial project was a canopy to protect the cruisers from the elements,” he said. “The cruiser parking will be on the west side of the building. They haven’t had covered parking ever, so that will come in time.”

Collinsworth said other items that would have to be done later include additional landscaping and charging stations for electrical vehicles. 

“It was just one of those things we packed in the bid as an alternative in case the bids came in high, which they did,” he said. “There were some other things, things we will have to pick up later.”

Collinsworth said the current police facility is more than 30 years old. 

“Really, in a matter of about 10 to 12 years from when it was built, they outgrew it that quickly. We were adding officers pretty quickly,” he said.

He said the city’s first response to the growth was to convert the former post office, 28 S. State St., to the police department’s detectives bureau.

“That bought us some time, basically,” Collinsworth said. “Another thing that came into play was we started to run out of storage space. We had to start renting storage for some things.”

He said the way mayor’s court operates also has changed from 30 years ago, when City Hall was built. 

“There are some security issues,” he said. “We increasingly have folks that are having to come into mayor’s court that we are picking up from Delaware or Franklin County jail because they have been arrested on a more serious offense. And so we have to transport them here in handcuffs and get them through the same doors that city staff and the general public are coming through. There’s no secure entryway.”

In addition to safety issues with the court, Collinsworth said, the city needed to address other police needs.

“The basement of the current police station has a shooting range in it that officers use for training,” he said. “The mechanicals on that are about shot. It’s big money to replace those. All these different space needs are kind of converging and have been for probably the better part of a decade or more.”

At one point, Collinsworth said, the city looked at constructing a new facility using the old Westerville Armory property, 240 S. State St., that’s owned by the city.

“But it just wasn’t quite enough land,” he said. “We needed 4 to 5 acres. ... That space, the old Armory, is only about 2.”

After the police division and mayor’s court move into the new space that’s being renovated and a 34,000-square-foot addition is constructed behind it, the current police station will be vacant.

“We’re going to remodel that for city office use, and all of those offices at 64 E. Walnut – planning, zoning, engineering, income tax and utility billing – are going to relocate to the current police station after we remodel that,” Collinsworth said. “We will sell 64 E. Walnut St., the old post office and the old Armory. We’re building one space and getting rid of three other properties.”

He said the police-court facility provides the ability for city departments to consolidate.

“So much of what will go on in here will be a lot more efficient, besides the fact that police will be under one roof,” Collinsworth said. “We will have a nice training facility here, not just for the tactical stuff – weapons and armory – but also for classroom-type training for our officers."

The training space also will double as an emergency operation center. 

“We’ve actually in the last four or five years, we’ve activated that EOC probably about four times,” he said. “It probably hasn’t seen that much action in its history up to that point. This space in here will accommodate a much more robust capability there. It really does address a multitude of needs and allows us to consolidate our facilities. That’s the impetus behind this project.”

Chandler said the project really is an overall improvement. 

“It will free up parking in the uptown because you won’t have a 24-7 operation with a bunch of police cars parked in the uptown constantly, so it’s a little bit of a help there,” he said. “We just appreciate the community supporting us in the election last year in passing the bond. It’s going to be a great thing.”

Collinsworth said he estimates the project to be finished at the end of March 2022 at the earliest or by June 2022. 

“It will take about 14 to 15 months to do the project,” he said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla