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Council Members Make Push For New Police Headquarters In District 5

Jolene Almendarez
Captain Craig Gregoire talks about problems with the District 5 headquarters. Council members Steve Goodin and Betsy Sundermann signed a motion last month hoping to get funding for a new building.

At a strip mall in College Hill, police officers do weapons checks in the parking lot by a daycare. Rifles and shotguns are locked in police cruisers that are parked next to the cars of people going to the nearby Family Dollar. And officials say there are bullet holes and a crumbling ceiling inside the District 5 police station located in that strip mall. That's why some City Council members are calling for up to $25 million for a new, permanent police station in District 5.

"This location in the strip mall is not conducive to helping this community at all. It is inadequate in almost every conceivable way," said Council Member Steve Goodin.

Goodin wrote a motion March 29 calling for money from the American Rescue Plan Act for construction of a new District 5 headquarters. The city of Cincinnati is expected to get $290 millionof the $1.9 trillion that President Joe Biden signed it into law last month.

While Mayor John Cranley and the city manager, as well as other council members, have been announcing various plans for the stimulus money, the federal government has yet to provide all guidance on how the funds can be used.

Ultimately, the full city council will decide how to spend the money, pending more guidance from the government.

Dozens of people spoke at a recent Budget and Finance Committee meeting about how the money should be spent, leaning toward funding for homeless services and the arts. 

"Frankly, it's unlike any budget process the city's ever seen," Goodin said. "So we are still trying to figure out how we're going to do this. ... We want to make sure that as we enter these negotiations over how much to set aside, how much to spend on different issues, that this absolutely is put in the forefront."

FOP President Sgt. Dan Hils says District 5 has had temporary police headquarters since 1957 when it was moved into 1012 Ludlow. But concerns over parking and the size of the building were among the reasons the headquarters moved in 2017. Hils and others also said there were health concerns, including cancer, from working in the Ludlow building. But tests for mold, radon and asbestos showed the air quality was "typical for commercial buildings" and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says the cancer several officers developed was unrelated to the work environment.

Still, this latest move into the 5837 Hamilton Avenue building was supposed to be temporary and, officials say, is not adequate enough for the 130 officers working out of the building.

"We've got maintenance issues," Captain Craig Gregoire said. "This facility is really not designed to be a police station. And there's some security issues, especially with COVID, that's brought some challenges, maybe some IT issues, where we don't have the infrastructure like other police facilities do. The big thing, though, is site security."

Council Member Betsy Sundermann signed the motion along with council members Christopher Smitherman and Liz Keating.

"It's all falling apart in there," Sundermann said at the news conference. "It's really embarrassing. And it's not where we should have our officers working."

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.