New plan for District 5 headquarters proposed - and then postponed

New plan for District 5 headquarters proposed - and then postponed
FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker
College Hill Plaza (
College Hill Plaza (
City Manager Harry Black proposed renovating the old permit center on Central Parkway in Clifton for a new District 5 headquarters. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
City Manager Harry Black proposed renovating the old permit center on Central Parkway in Clifton for a new District 5 headquarters. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - City leaders on Monday proposed and then postponed a plan to build a newly constructed, $17 million Cincinnati Police District 5 headquarters in College Hill.

Councilman Charlie Winburn is calling for the new building to go on the 3.85 acre parcel that currently holds College Hill Plaza, 5837 Hamilton Ave.

Mayor John Cranley and Councilman Kevin Flynn joined Winburn for his announcement during a morning news conference outside the plaza and backed it.

The decision ultimately is up to the rest of City Council.

Winburn wanted Council's Budget & Finance Committee to pass a $7 million motion for the project at their meeting that afternoon, but Councilman Chris Seelbach said he needed more time to review it.

Council, he noted, was only given the funding proposal and site location just hours earlier.

So the plan is delayed for now, but Council plans to take it up again in early 2018.

District 5 police station has been embroiled in a controversy over health and air quality concerns for more than a year now.

The building closed to the public in October, and several officers and civilian employees have been relocated until a new building is ready.

"Disappointed that the ordinance on funding a new Police District 5 was held," Councilwoman Amy Murray wrote in a Facebook post Monday. "Keeping out officers safe with a healthy work environment is a top priority and I was proud to support the ordinance."

The city had been planning to launch a top-to-bottom renovation of their old, vacant permit center off Central Parkway in Clifton into a new District 5 headquarters.

The building would be ready in 2019 and cost about $10 million, maybe more.

But earlier this year, the College Hill Plaza was discussed as another possible location. This one has the backing of the police union and, now apparently several council members.

FOX19 NOW was the first to tell you about concerns related to working conditions inside District 5 in a series of investigative reports that began in November 2016.

The police union president, Sgt. Dan Hils, exclusively invited our cameras into the 60-year-old building for a tour of both floors and all rooms.

He turned to us for help after police commanders unsuccessfully tried for years to convince council members to spend money on a new building.

As our cameras rolled, Hils pointed out concerns about mold, a bed bug infestation, a leaky roof and cramped quarters.

He asked the city to conduct air quality tests. They  found no major problem and gave the building essentially a "clean bill of health," according to City Manager Harry Black.

From 2015-2016, there have been six cancer-related deaths and 13 cancer diagnoses of staff under the age of 60 allegedly linked to the D5 building, according to Hils.

In all, he has said, more than 30 past and present District 5 workers over the years have been diagnosed with cancer. The police union has been updating the list, and FOX19 NOW has learned it has grown substantially to about 90, according to Hils.

No one's cancer has been linked to conditions at the building.

Still, a federal cancer cluster study is underway at the facility.

And, early this year, Black said the aging building was too small for current needs and recommended that council renovate the permit center on Central Parkway into a new headquarters.

He later agreed to the police union's request to move 35 investigators and other non-patrol employees into another police facility until the new building is ready in 2019.

Those workers temporarily relocated Oct. 24 into space at the police department's Spinney Field Training Complex in Lower Price Hill.

The lobby also has closed to the public.

But some 90 employees were left behind, mostly patrol officers. They are upset to be left behind and want to go, too.

The FOP president has called on the city and Cranley to move them into another building by Christmas.

The mayor and police chief both have said they wanted to move all officer's out by year's end.

On Monday, city leaders announced they will start working out of a Talbert House location at the College Hill plaza in January. They will remain there the next two years until their new building is ready.

The mayor also has pledged free cancer screenings for past and present District 5 officers not already paid for by city insurance.

District 5 covers a large portion around the University of Cincinnati and overall serves Clifton, Clifton Heights, University Heights, Fairview, Camp Washington, Northside, Winton Hills, Spring Grove Village, College Hill and Mount Airy.

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