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City council approves giving SPD its own building, purchasing property for city hall

STANFORD — After nearly 15 years squeezed into an 873 square foot space in the Stanford Fire Department, the Stanford Police Department is getting a new home. And so is Stanford City Hall.

The Stanford City Council voted 4-1 with one abstention Thursday to proceed with the recommendation of the Stanford Police Department Relocation Committee to move the police department to city hall, give the fire department its entire facility back and to purchase the Holton House at 403 East Main Street for use as city hall.     

The motion was made by Dr. Naren James and seconded by Peggy Hester. James, Hester, Ronnie Deatherage and Sara Givens all voted yes. The council member voting no was Ella Mae Curlis and Dalton Miller abstained.

Stanford Police Chief Zach Middleton, who had several of his officers in attendance at the meeting, said he was very pleased with the outcome.

“This is going to help us, the fire department and city hall, and really benefit the city,” he said. “Moving to city hall will triple our space.”

It will take a few months for the renovation of city hall to accommodate the Stanford Police Department (SPD) to be completed, but the move will put an end to the SPD having to conduct business and interrogations around boxes.

“I’m grateful for everyone who worked on this project to get this done,” Middleton said. “It’s been a long time coming and it’s an historic moment, not only for the police department but for the City of Stanford.”

The recommendation to move SPD out of the fire department and over to city hall and to purchase the Holton House, which is just two doors down from the current city hall, was one of three options presented to the council.

The Holton House option was the last presented, with David Sullivan of First Southern Funding, LLC, breaking down the proposal.

“Understanding the city is looking for a place to expand to and we own a piece of property that borders city hall and its parking lot, we have offered up this piece of property as a build-to-suit, turnkey house,” he said, explaining that he wasn’t a part of the actual floor plan layout, but that he took the information that he knew the city needed in order to facilitate a new building – keeping the fire chief, police chief and mayor in close proximity – and implemented that in the house.

The floor plan for city hall in the Holton House calls for a clerk’s office and reception area, the Code Enforcement office, a conference room, file room/safe, a work room, break room and bathroom on the ADA-compliant first floor. The mayor’s office, a conference room and a second bathroom would be on the second floor.

The Holton House, an historic Victorian Home, has already been renovated outside, with new paint, new roof, new gutters and all things needed to keep it out of the weather and make sure it is preserved.

“We have $151,000 in the house as it stands today. The contractor gave us a price of $46,000 to build it out in order to accommodate it as a city hall.  On top of that, taking the back yard that runs and borders not only the alley on the back but it also borders the current city parking lot, taking that, demoing the two sheds that are back there and grading the entire yard to be off street parking. That’s $13,000. That puts the total investment in the property on our end at $210,000,” Sullivan said. “We would be willing to take a loss on that piece of property at $200,000 and sell it as a turnkey. That’s our proposal for the city.”

There would be 10 off street parking spots at a minimum.

With this proposal, there would also be the cost of minor city hall improvements to accommodate the SPD. That cost was estimated between $7,000-$10,000.

That estimated cost was also part of a proposal to move the SPD to city hall, with city hall moving to the space formerly occupied by the police at the Stanford Fire Department. The estimated budget for renovations for city hall taking the current SPD space in the fire department building was between $21,000-$24,000. This budget included new flooring, ceilings and lighting. Entrance to city hall would be from the parking lot through a door on the left side of the building.

“That’s really small, I know,” said Garlan VanHook, a local architect who helped with design plans for each proposal. “The thing that this doesn’t do is allow the Code Enforcement officer to go to that location. That also means that the fire chief and city hall are sharing their breakrooms. It also doesn’t allow the fire chief to gain any space back from the police leaving the neighborhood.”

A third proposal was the most costly, with that plan including a new build for city hall. The costs estimated by VanHook for a new 2,600 square foot, ADA-compliant building was $379,645.

When trying to decide whether to build a new city hall or new police department building, VanHook said the former was the best choice.

“The most economic decision there is to build a city hall office. It’s not as expensive. You don’t have the high-dollar items to deal with relative to what it takes for the police department to have what is current code, all the things that would come with building a new building to satisfy the police’s needs,” he said.

He did add that the $379,645 was just “bricks and sticks” (the building) and did not include the purchase of land to develop and build on.

After the presentation of proposals was completed but before any motions were made on those proposals, Mayor Scottie Ernst opened the floor for citizen’s comments.

Robin Jones, a member of the Stanford Fire Department, was the first to come forward.

“All we’re asking is for you all to let us have our space back,” he said. “We’ve got a good working relationship with the police department, the city council, city hall. When we started out guys, when I first started in this department in the building that you are in now, we had two bay doors, a very small space. All the blood, sweat and tears that went into us getting a new building … it was kind of a slap in the face to see us not get our building back. I understand there are reasons that you all have to do things, but there is no more room for us to grow, and we’re a growing department. We’re getting bigger and bigger and busier and we’re already cramped for space. If there is anything that you can do for us, please let us have our building back. Stanford Fire Department and Stanford Fire Department only.”

A member of the Stanford Police Department, Detective Joe Lynn Gilliland, was next to address the council.

“So you’re saving a historic building, if we get that. We’re saving like over $100,000 at the very least over building another building,” he began. “I’ve been told that the houses on either side of that are probably log cabins.”

Sulivan confirmed that it was suspected they were log cabins because the houses are built close to the road.

“So sometime in the future, there’s a chance that we could have city hall sitting between two log cabins, next to the police department, across from the fire department. Everything’s going to be right there together,” Gilliland said. “When I started in 1976, we had two rooms in city hall. It’s now 2020 and we’ve got two rooms in the fire department. When I ran for mayor, I did not have an agenda. I wanted the city to look like it did when I was growing up. The city is beautiful now. We need the building. We’re going to save an historic building. And it’s all right there together. I think you’re crazy if you don’t do this. Plus, it (house) is done.”

Eddie Carter, former Stanford mayor, backed the issue of purchasing the Holton House.

“We’ve encouraged people to make the town look better by buying old houses. They’ve spent a lot of money,” he said. “This is a win-win situation. It’s showing people our city government believes in keeping an old house, restoring it and using it as a facility for the people. It shows that we believe what we’ve been preaching for the last 20 years.”

As vice-president of the Lincoln County Historical Society, Randy Denham wholeheartedly agreed.

“Saving an historic building is something we’re very excited about,” he said. “I think the historical society would be very much in favor of this option.”

Ernst, who served on the Stanford Police Department Relocation Committee with Stanford Fire Chief Scott Maples, Stanford Police Chief Zach Middleton, council members Ella Mae Curlis, Ronnie Deatherage and Peggy Hester and Stanford resident Jamie Mingo, then turned to members of the committee for comments, beginning with Middleton.

“It’s something that five years ago, the council was new, the mayor was here and I put forth my five-year plan at the time. A building has always been in that plan. I’m a very patient person, as these guys here can tell you. I’m very patient. I look at opportunities when I can get them. Thank you Garlan for all the work,” he began. “When we first started talking about city hall being the police department, I had a vision and I sketched it out on paper. When he took us to look at it the first time, it was almost identical to what I had.”

“Of all the options we’ve looked at and discussed, I don’t think there’s ever going to be an opportunity like this one. I’m talking about the whole town’s plan. The location is perfect. We have two problems right now. One problem is that, you can see on the screen – it’s a shame for me to see it on the screen but that’s reality. That’s our police department right there,” he said pointing to a picture on a screen at the front of the council room. “ If we have a drunk, somebody hauling meth … we have those people every day that we bring in. The other day we had seven. That’s just how it is. Four of them were in there at one time. We had one guy, luckily, that was coming in from court who could stay there and watch them so we could go and answer other calls.”

Middleton says he feels the Holton House purchase works best for all involved.

“I’ve explained it. Everybody’s in agreement that we need a new department. We’ve been agreeing on it for years. Every scenario pretty much has us in city hall which will be adequate for us now and in the future. So that just leaves a question of where does city hall go? The fire department is not the answer, I don’t think. These guys can tell you that it’s not going to work for the same reason that it doesn’t work for us,” he said. “The Holton House, for the cost we’d be getting it, I don’t think we’re ever going to have an opportunity like this.”

Fire Chief Maples admitted that he wasn’t initially on board with the Holton House option.

“As far as the house, I was against it initially until they started looking at land locations for building,” he said. “Land is outrageous. For the future, that (Holton House) is the best way to go. That’s my personal opinion.”

“It kind of goes without saying,” Maples said, referring to the pictures shown of the police department. “Space is an issue, of course, like Zach said. I would like to thank the committee members, the council, the mayor, they have all been awful good to us. The city’s seen a lot of growth the last few years and facilities are part of that growth. We’ve talked about this for several years … We’ve seen a lot of growth. The fire department has seen a lot of growth. Space is an issue. That building was built for a fire department 20 years ago in 1999. We had some extra room at that time but, as time goes .. we just need the space back.”

Mingo stepped to the podium to speak after Maples, expressing her desire to see the city council move to purchase the Holton House.

“I don’t really know what’s holding you back, the ones that have said they need more information or whatever it is,” she said. “I really feel like this is … I was excited to see that house. I was excited to see the potential.”

Mingo pointed out some of the reasons for her excitement.

• The discounted price is good.

• It speaks to the issue of separate space for each of the three (fire, police, city), which is important.

• It’s a timely solution to the lack of space and gives the police department something pretty quickly.

• It would be a unique city hall that would fit the historic town. “We don’t have a town just like everybody else,” Mingo said. “We have historic churches, funeral homes and businesses and I think it would add to our town if we had a city hall like that.”

• The fact of the buildings lost over the years that the city is not going to get back.

“I would just encourage you, please, to consider going ahead and move on this and give the police department a way to know that they have a plan, the city hall has a plan … everybody has a plan. It’s time to move on to a decision,” said Mingo.

Deatherage asked why a fourth option wasn’t available – city hall contained to the first floor with SPD on the second floor.

“When we first started looking at this, 100 percent of my focus was on relocating the police department. I’ll be honest with you, I never thought about relocating city hall,” said Deatherage. “That never crossed my mind. I thought city hall we’ll put downstairs in that front part and we can make that work. I brought that up at a committee meeting. I never saw a plan on that. Nobody said this won’t work because of this reason.”

“We didn’t study a plan that married police into city hall because it just didn’t fit with the program with what they needed … Police can’t go to the second floor. Where does the police interact with the public?” VanHook responded. “You can see in the plans the need for 2,600 square feet for city hall and the police department. You can’t fit it into the building that exists there.”

Middleton said daily interactions wouldn’t allow for the city hall and the SPD being together.

“It goes back to the amount of people that we interact with in a day and the amount of people they interact with in a day,” he said.

“Our arrestees are going to act the way they act,” added SPD Captain Barry Allen. “If it interferes with the fire department, it’s going to interfere with city hall. Plus the citizens that are there to pay a tax bill or payment or whatever they’re going to do.”

“The potential for growth – we would need the whole building,” said Middleton. 

Mayor Ernst also had his opinion to add on the issue.

“The police department moving into the current city hall building is ideal for what they need,” he said. “The building originally was built to house the mayor’s office, clerk’s office, dispatch for county and city police, the fire department, the Stanford Police Department staff, the Stanford Fire Chief’s living quarters and city council meeting rooms.”

Ernst said the police department moving into city hall would mean finding space for the mayor’s and clerk’s offices as well as that of Code Enforcement.

“It is my opinion Holton House is the best solution for city hall. I feel it is important to have all three departments in close proximity to each other, because all three departments interact daily with each other and all three departments need their own identity, have three separate buildings.”

“The Holton House is ideal as far as space and layout of rooms and location for city hall. By buying the Holton House it speaks for our town being the second oldest city in Kentucky. It is an old Victorian house that is solid in its construction. It shows that city government believes in our downtown, our old historical buildings, that we as city government want to preserve our old structures.”

City Clerk Joan Allen added her opinion on moving city hall to Holton House or to the fire department.

“I’m in city hall every day. I see the people who come in every day. I juggle around the fire chief and the police chief and the assistant clerk who is there with me and I think we do an excellent job in the space we have now,” she said. “To think that, for even a moment, we could function in a 600 square foot space and run city hall, it’s not even on the radar of an idea.”

“We talk about the face of the city and what we want it to look like. Is that what you want your city hall to look at (referring to a picture of the SPD office)? Do you want people to walk in the side door beside the fire department and be crammed into a space … where we have no safe to protect historic documents. We talk about visitors and people that come into our city. What better place to welcome them in than to have an historic home that reads city hall or welcome center … To stick us back in a corner where we can’t be found is a mistake.”

While Ernst and those attending the meeting were anxious to move on purchasing the Holton House, some council members voiced apprehension at making a decision.

“My recommendation from day one was to move you all (SPD) over to city hall,” said Hester. “And I did recommend that we move city hall over to the fire department. Through the arguments, I see that’s probably not going to be feasible. Right now, what we have on the table, in my opinion, is let’s do first things first. We need to get you all in a position where you can function as a legitimate police department instead of being surrounded by boxes and no place to interview and to bring people you have arrested.”

“I’m not prepared to make a decision where to move city hall. I like the Holton House. Scottie told us the other night that Jess (Correll) would like to meet with the council …. So I’m not prepared to vote on that aspect of the upgrades tonight. But I am in favor 100 percent if you think this will help you progress down the road. If you think that is adequate and will meet your needs.”

“It will meet our needs now and will give us room to grow,” said Middleton. “I think it would be a great location for us.”

“Will it be enough room for the future,” Miller asked.

“We’ve been in that one (at fire department) for 14 so ….,” Middleton answered.

“I’m looking 20-25 years down the road,” said Miller.

“It will for the future,” Middleton replied. “Yes. We’re still looking at an unfinished basement. There’s potential there for growth. It meets our needs now and will meet our needs of the future.”

Finances were a concern voiced by multiple council members.

“What about our finances? Would we take it out of the money we have now or will we be trying to get a grant or take a loan out?” asked Hester. “It’s just something we’d have to talk about. First we have to decide what direction we’re going to go – which building we’re going to go in, are we going to build new or whatever.”

“We need to come up with a plan about where we’re going to get the money,” said Curlis, who said she would like to wait until March to make a decision so she can talk one-on-one with Correll. “Can we afford the payments? Do we have the money? You don’t jump into purchasing something before you find out about your money situation. Do you go buy a car before you figure out the payment on it?”

Deatherage says he just wants to be fiscally responsible.

“$200,000 is a good price but it’s still $200,000,” he said. “We never know when a situation would come up like it did tonight (need for a police cruiser). We may have something else. We may have two police cars that go down that we may have to purchase, or a fire truck and we’d have to do something. Obviously, we can borrow money and we can bond.”

Ernst noted that the city would not have to come up with the full $200,000 to purchase the Holton House. The proceeds of the sale of the city garage and an additional $15,000, which add up to $87,000, are ear-marked to benefit SPD, leaving $113,000 to borrow or pay.

Councilman James says police and fire are in a “crisis situation” and that he didn’t think the council needed to wait 30 more days to act.

“I’ve been involved in a few building projects so far, one in my own building. And one of the things I’ve learned, even though I was paying the mortgage, is that if you don’t listen to the people that use it, that you’re making a big mistake,” he said. “I’ve done substantial work on this. I’ve gone to the police department and seen that situation. I’ve gone to the fire department and looked at how it is. I can tell you … for me,  that when I saw it I was totally aghast that we allowed it to go on for so long”

“As a matter of fact, the first time we went to the police department we couldn’t go in because there were other things going on and they couldn’t accommodate us. We had to go back a second time. In the fire department, I was surprised. They cannot accommodate female volunteers right now. We’re at serious risk of not being able to provide some things that we are required to federally.”

“I’m in support of moving forward … It’s functional. They are all within the same vicinity, walking distance. The department staffs recommend it, the committee members, the fire chief and police chief and their staffs. And I think it’s quite cost effective compared to the other option of building another facility, especially after all the codes required.”

Council member Sara Givens said she was torn on the issue.

“I had the opportunity to go down to the Holton House. The mayor took me down there and I went through it. I liked it. I was about decided that this is it,” she said. “Then I called council people and was getting opinions about the house. I think it’s a good idea for the police department … I’m listening to the people and by listening I’m thinking that the town wants this house.”

“I would like to have another meeting. If that’s what the city wants, I have to go along with the city. There are some things that just need to be discussed. Is that alright with the people of Stanford?”

The answers she heard from the crowd were, “Go with your heart. Somebody make a motion.”

“Sara, I like the idea because it makes a pretty city hall. It saves an antique building. And it saves my pocketbook or our pocketbooks probably $300,000,” Gilliland said. “It’s everything we need. It keeps everything in a perfect triangle. And I know of no other property in the city for sale.”

To which Givens replied, “I said I’m listening. And like they say on a tv show, ‘I guess the tribe has spoken.’”

Curlis, who was present at the meeting via video-conferencing, made a motion to table making a decision until March.

Deatherage added that he wanted to get some numbers on the possible purchase of the Holton House. Sullivan said $200,000 with 0 percent down on a 20-year note is $1,479 a month. With $87,000 down, financing $113,000 would be around $870/month.

“To me, when you make a decision like this, you have to have those numbers,” Deatherage said. “For us to be fiscally responsible with our money, you have to ask questions about money.”

“We can do figures all day long,” Ernst stated. “Until we know what we’re going to buy, there’s no need to do the figures.”

To make sure there was no conflict of interest, Deatherage disclosed that his son-in-law was an officer at First Southern National Bank and Ernst said his brother-in-law worked for a subsidiary of First Southern Funding, LLC. First Southern National Bank and First Southern Funding are separate entities so there is no conflict for Deatherage. The only conflict would arise if Ernst had to break a tie.

Miller said that he wanted to share the information gathered at the meeting with city voters before making any decision on the proposals.

“What I’ve got to say probably won’t be popular with the room but I’m sorry,” he said. “I counted city voters in here and there’s a lot more out there that have no idea about these numbers. And that’s why that I think we put this off until the meeting in March where a vote will be taken for one of the plans. For which one, I don’t know, but I want to be able to go out and give all this information to the citizens. We’ve waited 14 years, what’s 30 days?”

Miller’s comment prompted VanHook to speak up as a citizen and not an architect.

“What if we were too poor to do anything?” he said. “Would we not go borrow money to improve our police department? Would we not go get a loan to improve our police department or fire department to help and protect us? Let’s pretend we’re too poor to do and don’t have the money. How are we going to do it? If you want to answer to me, are we so proud of where we’ve had these folks for the past 14 years. Fortunately I’ve never been in his custody and I’ve never had to deal much with the first department. But I would never bring people to town and say, ‘Hey, come see my city hall, my fire department, my police department.’ I think it’s wrong for us not to have the poor but proud attitude.”

“I feel like it’s my personal responsibility to tell as many people as I can when we’re borrowing money and what we’re borrowing it for,” answered MIller.

“I voted for you,” said VanHook. “And I’m begging you, as my representative, to play the ball forward.”

Johnny Williams, an SPD officer, also spoke as a Stanford voter.

“John Q. Public here. I voted like everybody here. I voted because I wanted Ms. Hester, Mr. Deatherage, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Miller, Mrs. Givens, Mr. James (And Ms. Ella Mae, too),” he said. “I wanted you all to represent my city. What you all decided to do with my tax dollars and my wife’s tax dollars and my son’s tax dollars, I put that in your hands. I put that in your hands so you all make the decision on when to buy, what to buy and how to buy to make me proud not only of my city council that I voted for – I’m proud of you all for what you all do – but also I want to be able to drive down Main Street and say, ‘Look, this is what my city council done. This is what my city council done.’ Because you are my city council. I’m your John Q. Public. I put the ball in your all’s court to make the decisions to make our town, my town, look better.”

“Dalton, I respect what you’re saying. You have to go back to the people of Stanford. But you know what, the people of Stanford put their trust in you to make that decision to know what to do.”

Curlis’ motion of tabling a decision on the proposals until next month was reiterated and Miller seconded it. In a roll call vote, Curlis cast the only yes vote. Deatherage, Hester, Givens, Miller and James all voted no.

James then made a motion to proceed with the recommendation to move the police department to city hall, to give the fire department its building back and to purchase the Holton House for city hall.

Hester seconded the motion and it passed 4-1 with the one abstention.

The vote to purchase the Holton House was the second vote of the night which benefited the SPD.

The council approved the purchase of a new car for the SPD. Miller made the motion for the car due to the SPD’s aging fleet. noting that most cars are subject to maintenance and that one officer, Jeremy Garrison, often patrols the city wearing gloves because his cruiser has no heat.

The council voted 6-0 to amend the current police budget to purchase a new cruiser at state-contract price.