Thursday, August 15, 2002

Tax levies to bolster police, fire depts. OK'd for ballot

By Steve Kemme,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — City council unanimously approved Wednesday placing a 1-mill police levy and a 1-mill fire levy on the Nov. 5ballot.

        The levies would permit Hamilton to add a third paramedic unit, hire at least five more police officers, and cover other fire and police operating costs.

        Each levy would generate $819,000 a year and would require the owner of a $100,000 home to pay $15.31 a year more in property taxes.

        Fire Chief Joe Schutte said the increasing number of emergency medical calls are straining the two existing paramedic units.

        “Our response time for emergency calls is increasing annually,” he said. “We're going to reach the point where we compromise the care the people receive.”

        Councilman Richard Holzberger said the police department is operating with a much smaller staff than it needs.

        In a work session earlier Wednesday, architect Jonathan Sandvick told council that it will cost at least $2.5 million to renovate the three historic Mercantile buildings that sit side by side on High Street in the heart of the city's downtown.

        Mr. Sandvick, president of Sandvick Architects of Cleveland, said the cost of demolishing and replacing the historic buildings would cost in excess of $1 million more than renovating them.

        The three city-owned 19th-century buildings have been vacant for two years, and their first-floor facades have been covered with painted plywood storefronts.

        Mr. Sandvick presented the results of a three-month $22,800 study of the buildings' structural needs and the costs of various redevelopment options.

        He said the buildings are structurally good enough to salvage.

        He estimated the cost of restoration for rental housing and retail at $2.5 million; for condominiums and retail, $2.6 million; for a bed-and-breakfast and retail, $2.6 million; and for office and retail $2.8 million.

        The cost of demolishing the buildings and constructing comparable buildings for rental housing and retail, he said, would be $3.6 million; for condominiums and retail, $3.9 million; for a bed-and-breakfast and retail, $3.7 million; for office and retail, $4.1 million.

        City officials want to find developers and investors willing to take on the redevelopment project.

        “The idea is for no city general-fund money to be used,” City Manager Mike Samoviski said.

        “The intent is for this project to be privately owned and privately financed.”

        Mr. Sandvick encouraged the city to act before the start of winter to repair the roof and perform other structural repairs.

        He estimated that cost to be $310,000.

        The city administration needs to develop a financing plan before City Council will decide what to do with the three buildings.

        Hamilton bought the buildings three years ago for $475,000 to save them from being demolished and being replaced with a parking lot.


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