Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Fairfield citizens still can't vote on justice center

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

FAIRFIELD - Residents will not vote on the location of the justice center unless citizens rally and force the issue to the ballot with a referendum.

Although four of the seven city council members voted Monday to put the issue on the ballot, Fairfield's charter requires five votes.

Had the measure passed, it would have marked the first time since the charter was adopted 24 years ago that council would have put something on the ballot it wasn't legally required to.

"We have special circumstances here," said Councilman Howard Dirksen, who voted with council members Michael Snyder, Jill Kinder, and Mark Scharringhausen to put the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. "Council is divided. The public is divided. While it is not desired by some, it will end the debate."

Last month during a work session, a split council voted to put the justice center on an 8.5-acre, city-owned parcel that used to hold a Kroger shopping plaza at Pleasant Avenue and Wessel Drive in the city's newly defined downtown area. About 5.5 acres would be used to build a $10 million justice center, with the remainder of the site being developed as office/retail space.

Some have criticized city leaders, saying the newly redeveloped downtown isn't the right site for a justice center. Others don't want the city to spend more money buying another site when it already owns the former Kroger property.

Conditions have become so cramped at the Dixie Highway justice center that 45 male police officers must share a single restroom.

Council also awarded a $162,690 contract to O'Rourke Wrecking Co. to tear down the now-empty mall that used to house Kroger.

On July 14, council will decide whether to proceed with collection and analysis of soil borings on the site by H.C. Nutting.

Council members Snyder, Dirksen and Kinder voted against suspending the rules, which would have allowed the third reading and vote on the matter this week instead of next month.


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