COLUMBUS -- City voters will be asked whether to continue a half-cent sales tax to finance separate police and fire stations. The facilities are expected to serve the community for the next 40-plus years.
“We’ll ask permission from the voters during the May primary election,” said City Administrator Tara Vasicek during Monday’s Columbus City Council meeting.
“This is about as simple we can make it,” said the administrator after an hourlong presentation detailing the four-year process council members and staff spent evaluating shared or separate locations for the public safety stations.
The $16 million bond issue will be on the May 15 primary election ballot.
Those bonds would be repaid using revenue from the local half-cent sales tax voters already extended in May 2016. City projections call for the police and fire stations to be paid off in 15 years.
“The 15-year payback is great for the community,” said Mayor Jim Bulkley, before he asked council members if they were ready to move forward.
The half-cent sales tax collections would go away if voters reject the bond issue.
The mayor said city officials were seeking a city and public comfort level in plans for moving forward.
On Monday, Vasicek said the local half-cent sale tax revenue is already nearing $2 million.
“(Projects will become) more and more expensive the longer we wait,” said the administrator, noting that the $16 million bond issue also includes the demolition costs of the old fire station and the former Gene Steffy building site.
The sites, Vasicek said during her presentation, are not suitable for sale or any other city uses.
The bond issue will call for a downtown police station on the corner of 14th Street and 23rd Avenue, the former home of Gene Steffy Ford.
The city already owns the site in anticipation of building a new library/cultural arts center that voters rejected.
Last month the council approved a two-year option-to-purchase agreement for three parcels of land just north of Howard Boulevard/U.S. Highway 81 between 46th and 47th avenues.
The new station would be on the west edge of Columbus where the fire department gets most of its calls, primarily for rescue services.
“A very small percentage of the department’s calls are fire-related,” Vasicek said. About 95 percent of the calls are rescue-related and can be reached within a six-minute response window, the industrywide standard, she said.
Officials plan to discuss adding living quarters to the C.W. Louis Fire Station on the city's southeast side along Eighth Street so some staff could be based there.
That station, located along Eighth Street, is currently an unmanned facility used to store equipment.