WEST LIBERTY – The West Liberty Police Department is in the preliminary stages of finding a new permanent location.
The department now is at 112 E. Columbus St., a house that Chief Shane Oelker says is not adequate for the department’s needs.
According to information obtained from the Logan County Auditor’s website, the property was purchased by the village for $90,000 on Jan. 29, 2002.
“I’ve had people say that it’s one of the oldest houses in West Liberty, but no one has been able to say exactly how old it is,” Oelker said. “I’m guessing it’s probably at least 100 years old.”
When Oelker took over as police chief in 2011, he told council the current location did not suit the needs of a growing police department. The department employs four full-time officers along with four part-time officers.
Inside their headquarters, Oelker said police complete reports, conduct interviews and store evidence.
Some of the issues police have working in the current building include having an inadequate property room to store evidence, a lack of security features and recording capabilities for interviews.
“It’s not a professional environment,” Oelker said about the building. “That’s not just because of the deteriorating structure, it’s just that this was built as a house and it’s just not conducive to conduct business out of.”
Oelker said as talks picked up over the past six months, council had inspectors inspect the building.
“The result of those inspections were that this building was uninhabitable,” Oelker said.
Oelker said the village’s insurance company also looked at the building and stated the building either needed to be demolished, have repairs to make it a safe building or face an increase in insurance.
After some discussions, council authorized Oelker this month to find out the cost of building a new building and demolishing the current building.
Oelker said the village is in phase one of six as they do not know where a new building would be located or how much it will cost to construct.
“I know a number I’ve seen thrown out is like $350,000, that was kind of a number that was thrown around of what a total project would cost from start to finish,” Oelker said. “We didn’t want to exceed $350,000. I certainly don’t think that this project is going to be anywhere near that.”
Oelker said he wants to stay within the department’s budget while providing a good service to the community.
He said he hopes the next police building will meet current needs and the needs of 20 years from now. Oelker added the department does not need a large building and is looking for something between 2,000 and 2,500 square feet.
For the immediate future, Oelker anticipates that the department will leave its current location between now and May to be housed temporarily at the library, 117 N. Detroit St. Speaking with council, Oelker said this has to be a temporary move.
“We can’t be stuck there for two years or three years,” Oelker said. “I wanted a plan in place before we moved there so I kind of did have a timeline. So to say when or if we’ll be in a new building, I don’t know.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.