WESTERVILLE — The city’s new Justice Center is being built at 229 Huber Village Blvd., with a scheduled opening date of Aug. 15.
The building will house the Westerville Division of Police and Mayor’s Court. The police are currently at 29 S. State St., with the court next door at City Hall, its home for 30 years.
“Volunteers and visitors frequently tour WPD headquarters and are consistently surprised by how compact the space is, considering the size of the department,” the city said on its website. “The Justice Center has been thoughtfully designed to meet current and future space needs and improve efficiency.”
The combined facility has been in the works for about a decade.
“The concept was planned for a number of reasons, including to unite staff and operations working across the city in multiple buildings and to improve safety with a dedicated Mayor’s Court space,” the city said. “However, the primary reason a larger facility is needed because WPD has simply outgrown its current 30-year-old building.”
The original plan was to build a new facility at the Westerville Armory, 240 S. State St., which the city bought in 2007. The armory was once home to the Ohio National Guard. The city said it wasn’t able to acquire the adjacent property, so it looked for a 4-6-acre site. In 2017, the current site, an existing two-story, 28,500-square-foot commercial building, became available. Westerville paid $2.1 million for the facility and will add on and retrofit it for $15 million. When completed, the building will be 60,000 square feet and have jail holding cells, training space, evidence lockup areas, shooting range, 911 center and community rooms.
In November 2019, Westerville voters approved an 0.96-mill bond issue for the $15 million over 20 years to finance the construction, costing residential property owners $33.60 per $100,000 of home valuation annually. In 2021-2022, millage was reduced by two-thirds due to the city’s financial management, it said, lowering property owners’ cost to $11.55 annually.
In 2020, Brandstetter-Carroll did the design work, which was approved by Westerville City Council and the Building Department. Contractor Pepper Construction began work in January 2021.
The WPD Investigations Bureau is currently at the former Westerville Post Office on 28 S. State St. It too will move into the Justice Center.
The plan is to have city staff currently housed at 64 E. Walnut St. — Income Tax, Information Systems, Planning & Development, and Utility Billing — move into a renovated 29 S. State St. The three properties at 28 and 240 S. State, and 64 E. Walnut streets will be sold.
“There would be no impact to emergency response times,” the city said in response to a frequently asked question. “Officers are assigned to five districts across the City and are NOT dispatched from headquarters when responding to calls. WPD currently has one officer assigned to Uptown and space will be allocated at City Hall to support that assignment.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.