$100,000 sought to reopen police station

Mayor opposes move by councilmen

The police department's Northwest District Station has been closed since July as part of a move to save money.
The police department's Northwest District Station has been closed since July as part of a move to save money.

A growing number of Toledo City Council members are supporting a pot of money to reopen the police department’s Northwest District Station on Sylvania Avenue.

Six councilmen have co-sponsored legislation to divert $100,000 toward the building's operation. But even if a majority of council agrees to fund reopening the shuttered substation, the Bell administration has repeatedly said the building would stay closed.

The Bell administration closed the building in July despite opposition from neighborhood residents and councilmen. Critics have alleged increased police response times since the closing.

In August, West Toledo residents urged City Council to consider allocating money for the police substation. They also delivered a petition signed by 575 people to Mayor Mike Bell's office asking city leaders to rescind their decision to close the district station.

Joe McNamara, president of council, recently resparked the controversy with an amendment to the 2013 proposed budget.

His proposal would reduce $100,000 from the “capital improvements plan contingency fund” and put an equal amount in the police contingency fund for the reopening of the building.

“While we recognize that ultimately it is the administration’s decision to staff this station or not, we are hopeful that at some point in the future, it will be reopened,” Mr. McNamara wrote to the other 11 councilmen. “Providing some budget for this contingency will ensure that funds will be immediately available."

Councilmen Tom Waniewski, Shaun Enright, D. Michael Collins, George Sarantou, and Rob Ludeman signed on as co-sponsors to the legislation, which could be reviewed by council during its agenda review meeting at 2 p.m. today.

The Bell administration negotiated a $270,000 sale of the station site to Global Direct Invest LLC, but City Council rejected the deal on June 19. The Bell administration vowed to continue its search for a buyer.

Mr. Waniewski, whose district includes the building at 2330 Sylvania Ave., has urged the mayor to reopen the station.

“What Joe and I set out to do is to let the administration know that the wish of council is to reopen that and have a viable police presence out there,” he said. “I thought this was a good step. … I think that the residents made a very strong case for the perception for a police presence.”

Keeping the building last year, without staff, cost the city about $20,000. The building cost about $40,000 in utilities when it was staffed, according to a city memo.

“This makes the residents feel safe, good, and happy, and I think it does a lot of good,” Mr. Waniewski said.

Jen Sorgenfrei, Mayor Bell's spokesman, said the city would not reopen the station.

"We have officers on the street patrolling, and if we pull officers off the street to staff a building, that is fewer to patrol the streets and that is fewer to respond to calls for services," she said.

The Bell administration last week revised its proposed general fund budget with an additional $1 million expected from red-light-camera revenue and earmarked the extra money for a list of additional expenses. Among them was $100,129 for the city-owned Erie Street Market. The money is needed because a deal to sell the building fell through, Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

Mr. Collins questioned the request because it would bring the cost to operate that building to $180,652.

“The other budget years are reported as $140,833 in 2010, $105,015 in 2011, and $137,250 in 2012, and now the budget as amended is $180,652 for 2013,” Mr. Collins said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.