City OKs issuance of bonds for Fire and Police projects

August 24, 2018

In the months following Columbus residents’ decision to vote in favor of an approximately $16 million bond issue providing new housing for the local fire and police departments, little time was wasted by construction crews turning over dirt.

“The foundation and earthwork is underway at both sites, and the final design for both is almost complete,” City Administrator Tara Vasicek said during a Thursday afternoon interview with The Telegram. “The fire final design is a few weeks ahead of the police, but they (both projects) are still on schedule.”

The new fire department, set to be located just north of U.S. Highway 81/Howard Boulevard between 46th and 47th avenues, is slated for use in summer 2020. The police station will be located at the corner of 14th Street and 23rd Avenue on the former site of Gene Steffy Ford and is scheduled to open around the same time.

During Monday’s Columbus City Council meeting, the council passed an ordinance enabling the authorization to issue Sales Tax Revenue Bonds, Series 18, in an amount not exceeding the $16 million cap for both projects.

“Basically, we will just be taking out a loan for a max of the $16 (million) under that (bond), and that will fund the new fire and police stations,” Vasicek said.

Bonds issued for both new stations will be repaid using revenues obtained through the local half-cent sales tax voters extended in May 2016.

Currently, approximately $7.1 million in sales tax revenues has been budgeted for use in 2019. To date, the city is on pace to hike that number up to $7.7 million, according to figures provided by the city in a staff report.

Phil Lorenzen of D.A. Davidson & Co. – who serves as the city’s bond underwriter – said in a staff report that an interest rate of 3.75 percent on the loan is being targeted.

The ordinance, Vasicek noted, didn’t deal with finding a bond buyer, it simply laid out some of the bond parameters.

“We haven’t sold the bonds, the ordinance just set the terms of the financing – what kind of bonds we can put out on the market,” she said. “We anticipate going to market the week after Labor Day. The week of Sept. 10 is when the bonds would be sold.”

With both projects underway, Police Chief Charles Sherer and Fire Chief Dan Miller are looking toward the horizon in regard to what project completion means for themselves and their staff.

“It is exciting, there’s a little trepidation moving forward with what lies ahead, but we are excited to move out of here and get over there,” Sherer said of the current facility at 2419 14th St.

The new police facility will allow for vital storage and office space the department is in dire need of. Currently, police evidence is stored at four locations around town and the new plan calls for it all to be kept in-house under a single roof.

In addition, the move allows for Columbus Animal Control to have a permanent home.

“They fall underneath the umbrella of the police department,” Sherer said. “They have moved three times in the past year, so this will provide them with some stability and continuity.”

Miller said the move allows his staff to serve directly in an area where a majority of their call traffic flows in from.

“We will be a lot closer to where that volume comes from, and we are by a lot of the nursing homes and things like that,” Miller said. “And now we will hopefully be able to staff the Charlie Lewis Fire Station on Eighth Street. We are looking forward to being able to staff that area and cover the whole city better and provide better resources on first response.”

The C.W. Louis Fire Station, located on the city’s southeast side along Eighth Street, would serve as a place for additional fire staff to house allowing for more equal dispersal of fire resources around town. Currently, Miller said, the building is used predominately by volunteer firefighters to store and receive equipment.

Miller and his staff still have some time to spend at their current 1459 26th Ave. location, but they have their eye on the prize.

“We are definitely excited to see the project kicking off with the dirt moving and utilities getting going,” Miller said. “We know there is light at the end of the tunnel and completion will happen in about 18 months, so that is great news.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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