Where to relocate Cincinnati Police District 5 HQ? Public can weigh in tonight

Where to relocate Cincinnati Police District 5 HQ? Public can weigh in tonight
Cincinnati Police District 5 headquarters in Clifton is now closed to the public after concerns over the building and a potential cancer cluster among police and other employees. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

CAMP WASHINGTON, OH (FOX19) - Residents can weigh in on where to relocate Cincinnati Police District 5 headquarters in the first of a series of community meetings Thursday night.

The public is invited to turn out 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Public Services Building,1115 Bates Ave. in Camp Washington.

Another meeting will be held next week, on Wednesday, at the College Hill Recreation Center at 5545 Belmont Avenue in College Hill.

Residents can review each sites in detail and suggest potential ones.

Other topics of discussion will include:

  • Basic specifications and criteria for the new facility
  • Preliminary sites researched so far
  • Positive and negative aspects of each site

A third public meeting will occur April 3 at 6 p.m. in the McKie Recreation Center, 1655 Chase Ave., Northside.

Staff and residents will discuss each of the proposed sites in greater detail and consider whether each site should be considered for final review.

This includes consideration of the city's vacant, old permit center site on Central Parkway in Clifton, City Manager Harry Black's original recommendation more than a year ago to City Council.

Late last year, Councilman Charlie Winburn called instead for a newly constructed, $17 million headquarters on the 3.85 acre parcel that currently holds College Hill Plaza in College Hill.

Mayor John Cranley and Councilman Kevin Flynn backed it, and Winburn wanted City Council to approve a $7 million motion for the project, 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 was delayed and now will be taken up again at these community meetings.

"The goal of these meetings is to find a site that meets the basic construction specifications and operational requirements needed from a police district headquarters while also serving the needs of the residents who live in District 5," city officials said Thursday in announcing the public input sessions.

"Effective community engagement is a crucial aspect of community-oriented policing. As such, this new Police District 5 building will follow that vision in every aspect and the final site determination will take into consideration the needs of the community and the entire district.

District 5 of the Cincinnati Police Department serves Camp Washington, Clifton, Clifton Heights-University Heights-Fairview (CUF), College Hill, Mt. Airy, Northside, Winton Hills and Winton Place. This also includes a large portion of the University of Cincinnati, whose main campus is situated within the boundaries of District 5.

View more on District 5 and its commander, Captain Bridget Bardua, on the city's website.

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.

On Jan. 1, the police department entered into a lease agreement with the operators of 13,000 square-feet of office space at the College Hill Plaza. All District 5 personnel will work there until a permanent new headquarters is constructed, reads a Jan. 4 memo from Police Chief Eliot Isaac to Black.

During the next few months, the leased building will undergo modifications to increase the safety and security of the facility. The anticipated occupancy for all personnel is March 30, according to the chief's memo.

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.

But concerns persisted, particularly as a cancer cluster pattern emerged among past and present officers and others assigned to work there.

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

Copyright 2018 WXIX. All rights reserved.