OUR VIEW: Don't add to sprawl by relocating police station

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Kent City Council's vote to consider the old RB&W site on Mogadore Road as a possible location for the city's police station is fine in the spirit of due diligence, but the hidden, not so obvious, substantial cost of geographically dispersing city operations should be tallied up, too.

The RB&W land is much cheaper since the city already owns it, but that land lies within an area where the city has been working hard to create a high tech 21st Century industrial park. With all of the effort that has gone into the industrial park, we question whether a police station is the best use of that land.

True, the up-front cost of industrial land is less than the acquisition of downtown commercial property. The up-front cost, however, represents a one-time expenditure. Operating a city function such as the police department is an on-going expense. Sprawling out city functions by removing the police station would, we are fairly certain, in the space of a few years cost more than the up-front money saved.

The plan to build a new police station that was voted down as too expensive last November would have had the city acquire commercial property between East Summit and Day streets and therby expand Kent's municipal campus.

The municipal campus remains the best plan, we think, because it keeps Kent's safety functions centralized and easier to manage.

The city in recent years made a substantial investment in its fire department, located immediately east of the current police station on the city's municipal campus. Why remove the police station to a relatively distant location and make coordinating police and fire services more difficult?

Government operations are traffic builders. Kent in recent years has done an outstanding job of rejuvenating its downtown. In removing the police station, the city would be taking a 180-degree turn. That's pretty inconsistant urban planning.

The current police station, though outmoded and in need of replacement, has the merit of at least sitting at the center of urban activity. It is close to both the downtown and university. Even Portage County has decided to locate its municipal court branch on East Main Street and remain part of the downtown.

We think the city should continue to explore ways of acquiring the commercial property between Day and East Summit streets. Perhaps the Downtown Kent Corporation could be helpful.

Kent should also cap with a sunset provision any portion of a proposed income tax hike earmarked for a new police station. The open-ended approach last November was a major turn-off and contributed to the proposal's defeat.

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