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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

News & Updates

Mayoral message: Funding the Vision – enhancing public safety with a new police station

The following is the third in a series of messages from Mayor Chris McBarnes regarding the administration’s vision for addressing opportunities and challenges on the community’s horizon.

Frankfort Moving Forward: Funding the Vision: Enhanced public safety with a new police station

 After daily reflection and prayer, I believe Frankfort’s future comes down to two options:

  1. invest and deploy sound economic strategy and provide excellent government service to aid in responsible city growth
  2. deploy the strategy we always have and hope our community expands, hope we get that new movie theater, new car dealership, new housing subdivision, hope we attract high-tech and high-wage earning jobs to our community. History tells us this option will not fulfill the dreams and desires we all have for Frankfort.

In this message, I will address the funding mechanisms for a proposed new police station with the remaining two messages addressing Prairie Creek Park and needed enhancements to our wastewater plant. We are proposing no new or higher taxes for the new police station and Prairie Creek Park with these projects built within the established revenues generated by our existing tax rates. The utilities project is another animal entirely. That project would be accomplished through utility rate dollars (rates we pay through our monthly utility bills, particularly the sewer rate portion of those bills).

The interior of our police department is an embarrassment. You can only put new paint on a ‘45 Chevy so many times before things go south. We have done all we could in the past six years to tuck-point, perform emergency fixes and outfit our existing station with energy efficiency items such as LED lights.

An in-depth study executed during the past three years examined ways we could rehab our existing location (originally built to be a post office) into a 21st Century policing center. We also visited with other municipal leaders who rehabbed older structures not built to be police stations (former schools, etc.) and leaders who built new stations. From a cost efficiency standpoint building a new police station is the way to go.

This study found the cost to rehab it would be north of $7 million and we would still be left with an ‘old’ building which would call for unintended and unexpected upkeep costs even after rehabilitation. I came to terms with these ongoing costs for Old Stoney, but am unable to do so with our current police station, given public safety is our #1 priority and the vital need to provide our police officers with a high-functioning building.

So, a new study is being commissioned to:

  • determine the location of most potential for a state-of-the-art policing facility that considers the next 25 years of growth and decide the entity to take over our existing police station and repurpose it for community use
  • design a police station that will equip officers with modern capabilities and components to promote a strong ‘community policing’ model (e.g. an outdoor basketball court for youth, playground equipment and a running track for the entire community to enjoy). What better way to prevent crime in the long run than to connect our children at an early age with our police officers in a safe and nurturing environment?

I am convinced Frankfort jumped from the 50th to 23rd safest city in Indiana because we have the best police officers in Indiana, effective police leadership and Frankfort residents working alongside our officers. It is my desire to not only build a state-of-the-art facility for Frankfort’s finest, but also one that encourages community involvement, particularly with our youth to directly engage and build relationships with our outstanding police officers. An effective community policing model is a key economic development and quality of place enhancement tool to prompt job creation, attract more families to call Frankfort home and drive private investment upwards.

How do we fund it? Instituted by Clinton County, the Public Safety Local Income Tax can only be used to benefit our public safety departments. Some expenditures funded by this resource have included payments toward a new fire rescue pumper, salaries for police officers and firefighters, thermal imaging cameras for firefighters to detect hot spots, firefighter air packs and masks, police tasers, bullet proof vests and new police vehicles. This is a tax outside of property taxes you pay on your personal or real property; a tax amount that is dictated by how much money you make on an annual basis. For example, I personally paid $1,408.72 last year in local income taxes. A portion of these taxes went to a local economic development fund and another portion went towards the public safety fund.

The Public Safety Income Tax fund produces $1,084,615 for our use in Frankfort. We have an approved balanced budget of $1,088,080 which means we have a minor surplus of $3,465 for this year that can go towards the public safety needs in such high demand. These investments help keep Frankfort’s bravest one step ahead of the bad guys. It’s working but we can always do better.

My proposal is that we use this fund specifically created for public safety use to not only continue to fund essential public safety needs but to also issue bonds to build a state-of-the-art police station. We can accomplish both tasks responsibly by working within our existing tax revenues without any new or higher taxes. Our administration’s capital improvement plan allows us to strategically fund fire and police department needs appropriately (new equipment, great healthcare insurance and salaries) all the while financing a much-needed new facility which would make our community that much safer.

Ultimately, our city councilors will determine what we can afford in building a new police station. I am grateful for the wisdom, vision and guidance of our Police Council Committee and will lean heavily on them as we move forward with the police station project.

Public safety is job #1. We have a need requiring immediate attention. We have a sound plan to fund that need.

Mayor Chris McBarnes