Akron could soon be home to the newest police and fire headquarters in Summit County.
Fire Station 4 on Thornton Street, which will house Fire Chief Clarence Tucker’s staff and countywide emergency response teams, is estimated to be complete by July. And Police Chief Ken Ball is saving up for a new headquarters.
Heads of every city department are submitting funding requests to the finance director for the 2019 operational and capital budgets. Ball said he’s setting aside money to build a new station since the city plans to empty much of the Harold K. Stubbs Justice Center by moving the municipal courts and prosecutors into the Ocasek Building.
“It’s kind of the start of a savings account to have some of the monies available,” Ball said of early discussions around a new headquarters, which could cost in the tens of millions of dollars.
There’s no location yet. Ball is asking that some of the city’s new income tax money for safety and roads be used to bid out work to a private consultant who would study the police department’s current and future assets and needs.
Budgeted police staffing increased from 455 to 458 with three additional slots funded by a federal grant to pursue leads from old sexual assault kits lat year. Nearly 440 are on the force, with six in training at Kent State University ready to join in the next six weeks.
The consultant would review operational needs and physical assets, including the more than 300 vehicles, from patrol and traffic cruisers to unmarked cars, transport vans and motorcycles, and where they’re parked. The police department also operates an old warehouse in South Akron where larger evidence is stored for auction. “You’d be surprised how many bicycles we get each year,” Ball said.
The chief wants a headquarters that’s safe and accessible to the public, as close as possible to downtown with the municipal court not moving far. Prosecutors will go with the courts to the Ocasek Building on South High Street when renovations are complete, likely not before 2022.
Ball’s team would conduct an internal review to complement the external consultancy’s work, interviewing unit commanders and performing cost-benefit analyses on items such as an indoor firing range instead of continuing to use the one at the University of Akron.
The new headquarters would satisfy officers’ current needs, and any foreseeable needs in the next 15 or so years, Ball said. “We want to have a place that’s efficient and responsible. And with the courts moving, there would be a significant part of the [Stubbs] building that wouldn’t be filled.”
Ball said the current HQ “is so outdated” that it “doesn’t serve the needs. And it would be significantly cost-restrictive for us to do something here.” Construction materials and standards of the 1960s, when the nine-story Stubbs building went up, produced antiquated heating and cooling, electrical and other systems that aren’t easily adapted for modern technology, and much of it is covered in asbestos, making even minor repairs dangerous and expensive.
“If you have an older facility, at what point do you stop pouring money into this and move on?” Ball asked.
City administrators expect a “clearer picture” of where and what to build for the next generation of city police by the end of 2019.
Reach Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3792.