Feasibility study could call for new service-safety building

Safety service departments in Athens County have always worked together closely, but in the future, that collaboration could take on a new face.

Athens City Council member Steve Patterson, D-At Large, proposed an ordinance at Monday night’s council meeting that would allow the city to apply for a grant to fund a feasibility study to consider housing city, county and university safety services under one roof.

With the help of a $50,000 grant from the local government innovation program, the city would take a look at the possibility of creating a new building to house the Athens Police Department, the Athens Fire Department, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, Athens County 911 and the Ohio University Police Department.

Council also passed an ordinance appropriating an additional $10,000 to the cause at Monday’s meeting.

At a previous council meeting, council members said the study may total up to about $30,000 and that the city was cooperating with Ohio University on the project.

Patterson said such a facility would help promote efficiency and collaboration between the departments, while also bringing down the cost of operating each facility independently.

“This is just a feasibility study to see if something like this could be workable in the city of Athens,” Patterson said.

The ordinance is slated to pass in late July.

Acting Mayor Chris Knisely said the deadline to apply for the grant falls in September.

Council also adopted an ordinance that will establish a system for city employees to be billed if they were overpaid.

The ordinance was created after City Auditor Kathy Hecht brought to council’s attention that two employees in her office had been overpaid in mid-May.

“The idea is that we’ll have a policy on the shelf that we can refer to and can meet the state auditor’s requirements for a well run city,” Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, said.

The system would require any city employee who received too much money to pay the city back, regardless of the amount in question. Employees would pay in one lump sum or in increments, as long as they settled before the end of the fiscal year.

“This sets up a consistent policy for the city and spells it out,” Knisely said. “It’s good auditing practices.”

The ordinance was adopted with a unanimous vote.

@emilybohatch

eb346012@ohio.edu

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