Belleville police get new $3.1 million home

News-DemocratFebruary 3, 2014 

The Bank of Belleville building, at 720 W. Main Street, will serve as the Police Department's new facility.

PROVIDED/BND

— The city of Belleville will spend $3.1 million to buy the Bank of Belleville building to serve as the Police Department's new facility.

The City Council voted 13-1 on Monday to buy the property on 720 W. Main St. from Parkhill Estates LLC and Richland III LLC.

Mayor Mark Eckert said the city will purchase the property with funds from Tax Increment Financing District No. 3 and a short term loan that could last up to three years. More financial details will be available later, Eckert said.

The St. Clair County Assessor's Office reports the fair market value for the property at $2.4 million.

Alderwoman-at-Large Lillian Schneider voted no. Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle and Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti were absent.

Schneider said she voted against buying the building because the consulting firm tasked to study various sites in Belleville has not completed the study.

"How can we buy it without having the study in our hands?" Schneider said.

About six months ago, the city approved a $96,247 contract with the St. Louis-based Lawrence Group to see if it makes sense to remodel City Hall, at 101 S. Illinois St., build a new police station or move the Police Department to an existing building.

The council spent more than an hour in executive session Monday night to discuss buying the property.

After the meeting, Eckert explained that aldermen heard from a Lawrence Group representative at a January council meeting.

"His opinion is that this site is the best site of all they examined, without the city building everything from new," Eckert said. "This is just the first piece of the puzzle."

The building, about 40,000-square-feet, will house only the Police Department and the space will give the agency some room to grow into, Eckert said.

Among the concerns of the existing Police Department is that employees are spread across four buildings, which is a management and work efficiency issue. Evidence, which is being stored in eight vaults in four buildings, can now be consolidated.

Eckert said the Lawrence Group is expected to finish the study in about a month, providing for guidance on renovations for City Hall.

Eckert has said City Hall does not meet today's Americans with Disabilities Act standards and lacks the space to house a larger workforce than when City Hall was built in 1957.

Also on Monday:

* The council approved the Housing Department's request to dispose some public records.

Because of some aldermen and residents' concerns over purging records that could be valuable to the public, the city decided to keep all electrical, mechanical, building, plumbing and sign licenses and permits for now.

City Attorney Garrett Hoerner said the city will look into scanning and storing the documents digitally.

Bob Sabo, director of the Health, Housing and Building Department, asked to dispose the records because his department is out of storage space.

The council approved destroying the following records: Cash receipts, books/reports and copies of claims from 2002 to 2011; administrative files and correspondence from 1994 to 2011; and sick and vacation time requests from 2001 to 2011.

The city alone, not the county or state, keeps these records.

* The council denied a variance request from resident Robert Korpanty to operate a gunsmith and appraisal business from his home at 202 N. 49th St.

Korpanty, who works with Scott Air Force Base, told the council most of his work will be done off site and in instances where he has to keep special-ordered guns for a few days, he will store the items in a secure safe.

Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult said aldermen should not base their vote on the type of business in question.

Eckert and Ward 4 Aldermen Jim Davidson and Johnnie Anthony said they were concerned about safety, break-ins at the home to steal the guns, allowing a business in a residential area and added traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood.

"No one here is questioning the right to bear arms," Eckert said.

Those in favor of allowing the variance were Schneider, Hult and Ward 6 Alderman Bob White.

* The city honored retiring Fire Chief Scott Lanxon for his 28 years of service to the city.

* The council approved the purchase of a $64,480 special dirt buggy for Walnut Hill Cemetery to replace an existing buggy from 1963. This year's budget included $70,000 for the purchase.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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