New police station seeks to better serve Kent community

A long-awaited approval by the city lead to a new building after the previous police station was approaching a hundred years old.

ZambelliKentPDRPP from Mariel Zambelli on Vimeo.

Kent City Police and other public officials began moving into the newly built police station Monday after almost two years of work to construct the building.

A new facility for the Kent Police Department became a necessity due to foundation and water issues in the previous building leading to problems for the workers within.

“A lot of the infrastructure and the core of the building was deteriorating,” said Chief Michelle Lee. “A lot of the new systems — wifi and things — we couldn’t penetrate walls. It was just not usable anymore, and it was worn out.”

A big factor that necessitated the change was the jail. In the old building, the jail couldn’t pass state standards which meant having to keep people at the Portage County jail.

“Our jail was abysmal,” said Roger Sidoti, a member of Kent’s city council-at-large. “We had to send everyone to Portage County most of the time, which creates a dangerous situation for both our officers and general citizens.”

The new building seeks to make it a better facility for both the workers inside and the community. It now includes more jail space for inmates and an elevator which complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In November of 2013, voters approved a 0.25 percent income tax increase to go towards paying for the new facility which is located at the corner of Haymaker Street and East College Avenue. Construction began in August of 2016 and was completed in December of 2017.

The project was originally slated to finish in October of 2017, but was delayed due to weather constraints early on in the project.

“I’m pleased to say it was only delayed by about 30 days,” said Melanie Baker, Service Director for the city of Kent. “The contractor really pulled stuff together and got it all finished in time.”

Sidoti said it was important to include the community’s voice in deciding how to pay for the new facility.

Roger Sidoti, member of Kent city council.

“We were still coming out of a recession,” Sidoti said. “So, the question was; ‘What can we take advantage of without hurting the public?’”

He said the tax raise passed with overwhelming support from the voters.

The site of the facility wasn’t the first one considered. Initially, the city had considered building the station on Mogadore Road, near where the Public Service Department is located on Overholt Road.

According to the meeting minutes from the May 1, 2013 council meeting the site did not meet the criteria for the best value for the city. The criteria included “proximity to the University, functionality and available commercial land bank.”

Sidoti said the council originally voted to move forward with a site on Day Street facing Summit Street. The land previously housed a gas station which left behind gas tanks the city would have been required to clean up before breaking ground.

“If we purchased that property, it could cost an additional million dollars in clean up,” Sidoti said. “As long as you don’t disturb those tanks, you’re okay. But the moment you start excavating, then we may have born the brunt of additional tax dollars.”

Other properties considered were private properties that council decided would have cost the taxpayers too much money to acquire.

Baker said the project is currently under budget, but there are still some change orders that could come in.

“I know we were estimating approximately $315,000 in change orders and we’re only at about $290,000,” Baker said. “There’s still a few hanging out there. Fingers crossed, though, that we should come in underneath that.”

The city hopes to hold an open house in the coming months to encourage community members to visit the new police station and become familiar with the facilities available to them.