Janesville60.2°

Elkhorn police department to move into old courthouse

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Kayla Bunge
February 17, 2009
— A months-long debate between taxpayers and city officials about where to relocate the Elkhorn Police Department has come to an amicable end.

The city council approved Monday a proposal to remodel vacant space in the Walworth County Government Center for $1.7 million rather than build a new facility in Tasch Park for $2.6 million.


The proposal is contingent upon reaching an agreement with the county on how much space is available in the old courthouse, city officials said.


But City Administrator Sam Tapson said it bothered him to remove the option of building a new police station in the event the city is not able to secure the necessary square footage.


"What's your fallback?" he asked.


Mayor John Giese said it shouldn't be an issue.


"To me, it's obvious that if the county reneges on its agreement, we have no choice but to look elsewhere," he said. "But from all indications I have received, we'll probably end up inside the courthouse."


The city council also approved Monday paying down the debt with whatever is left of the nearly $3.5 million the city borrowed in anticipation of relocating the police department.


Giese said it wouldn't be fair to taxpayers, who campaigned strongly against the more expensive building option, to use the money for anything else.


"We've already borrowed enough money to pay for this project," he said.


Both taxpayers and city officials long have agreed that a larger police station is needed, but the debate over whether to remodel space in the old courthouse or build a new facility has stalled the project, which has been in the works for four years.


The city in 2004 considered moving the police department into a 10,000-square-foot space on the lower level of the old courthouse, but the city scrapped that plan after learning the department would outgrow the space in less than 10 years.


The city then decided to construct a new police station across the street from the existing police station. The initial plan was to build a 33,000-square-foot facility, but the size has been cut three times to a 15,000-square-foot facility to save money.


According to a memo from Tapson to the city council, almost 13,000 square feet of space is expected to be available at the courthouse for the city's use.



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