Dunnellon to consider former church building for police headquarters

DUNNELLON — After initially refusing to take action, Dunnellon City Council finally agreed on Monday to engage an architect to determine whether a city-owned building would be a suitable replacement for the deteriorating police headquarters.

Mayor Bill White and Vice Mayor Valerie Hanchar initially voted in favor of the review, with councilors Jan Cubbage and Louise Kenny voting no. Councilor Anita Williams was absent.

A tie vote meant the problem was dead.

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Towards the end of the meeting, when it was time for councilors to make their reports, White told council that the city had an unused $350,000, 6,000 square foot property, a police building that had mold issues and needed repairs, and a police chief who is eager for a resolution.

“The problem is not going away,” White told advisers. He said he was willing to call a special meeting to discuss the issue and said he did not want to adjourn Monday night without resolving the issue.

With that, Hanchar made a motion to reconsider the matter. This time Kenny and Cubbage voted yes. The measure is passed unanimously.

According to the agenda package, $56,000 has been budgeted for the architectural review. The city received two proposals: from Partain Architecture and David P. King Jr. & Associates PA Both are Ocala firms. A review board ranked Partain Architecture top.

During the debate, Police Chief Mike McQuaig told councilors “we don’t know how much this (the other building’s renovation) is going to cost”, until an architect steps in.

Hanchar said that even if councilors decided to authorize repairs for the current police building, they would need professional advice.

Cubbage said some of the problems with the current police building are long overdue. She said the city was “not financially ready to make this move”, referring to the relocation of officers to the former Souls Harbor First Pentecostal Church building and making it the new police department.

Kenny said the city is “strapped financially” and that decisions like this require public input.

Last year, the council purchased the church building for over $300,000. The goal was to consider, one day, to make it a police service/community centre. The distance between the church building and the police department is approximately one mile.

There have been discussions to allow the Marion County Sheriff’s Office to take over the police department. Sheriff Billy Woods told councilors at a meeting last month that it would cost them $2 million a year to dedicate deputies to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. not a building.

The other option, with assistants on call but not on site 24/7, would cost $1 million.

The city’s police department budget is estimated at $1.2 million.

Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118, austin.miller@starbanner.com or @almillerosb

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