By Lenny C. Lepola -

Genoa Township’s police facility is in bad shape, according to Art Reitz, chairman of the township’s Citizens Police Advisory Board.

During the Feb. 4 township trustees’ meeting, Reitz expressed concerns about the condition of the facility at the intersection of State Route 3 and Big Walnut Road.

Reitz said the police department building evolved out of an old picnic shelter and has structural problems — no insulation and a leaking roof that is causing mold. It is also infested with rodents and insects. They are all potential health and safety concerns, he said.

“The department now has 28 officers, four are female, plus there are two female administrative employees, but no separate locker rooms or dressing rooms for male and female officers,” Reitz said. “And the police department locker room needs a shower for officers that are exposed to Mace and other contaminants.”

Reitz said the police department lacks spaces for mandated record-keeping, secure weapon and ammunition storage, juvenile arrests, and soundproof and isolated rooms for suspect interviews.

“We’re asking you to work with the consultant that specializes in public safety buildings to look for options,” Reitz said. “We need to get some appropriate ideas of where we might go from here.”

Trustee Karl Gebhardt said his immediate concern was remediation of mold. Police Chief Steve Gammill said the mold has been taken care of but, with a leaking roof, the mold would return.

Trustee Rick Carfagna asked Reitz if members of the advisory board were talking about building a new facility, or updating the current facility.

Trustee Frank Dantonio said trustees should explore the entire issue, not just seek an immediate short-term solution.

Gebhardt said he agreed with Dantonio, but short-term, cost-effective repairs need to be completed to make the building healthy and safe.

Parks Advisory Board member David Blair, who has firsthand knowledge of architecture and building methods and procedures, was in the audience. “It would be a six-month process looking for options,” Blair said. “Then another three to six months before you have construction drawings. With bidding, you’re a year out.”

Reitz recommended that a solution be determined and then the process expedited.

“We’re very blessed in this community with the police and fire safety forces we have,” Reitz said. “I’ve yet to see any community take better care of its residents, but we not only need to get good people, we need to keep good people.”

In other police business, Gammill asked trustees to approve spending $15,500 for a new department German shepherd and handler/canine screening and training. Trustees approved the request, but not before discussion.

Gammill said Officer Jason Berner, the department’s canine handler for the past 12 years, is now a school resource officer, and he does not recommend turning Berner’s dog, a Belgian Malinois named Gandolf, over to another handler.

“I don’t know of any other police dog that has ever been handed off to another handler,” Gammill said. “And a Belgian Malinois is like a German shepherd on crack. German shepherds are more suited for public relations.”

Dantonio said he would like additional drug search and tracking numbers a police canine produces. Gammill replied that a dog’s search and drug numbers are not great, but canines are needed for officer safety and also are excellent public relations tools.

Gammill also noted the need for a timely decision.

“We can call dogs in on mutual aid, but we’ve been six months without a canine on a daily basis,” Gammill said. “The vendor is doing a class in March. The next class would be late summer. If you wait two weeks to approve this, we’re looking at getting a dog in late summer, and Gandolf is only certified until June.”

Carfagna, in asking for a vote to approve Gammill’s request, said he didn’t need additional information because the purchase would be offset by private donations to the department’s canine fund.

Gebhardt, noting $33,000 in private donations from township residents over the past three years for canine use, seconded Carfagna’s motion.

“If this was taxpayers’ dollars, I would say ‘no,’” Gebhardt said. “But we have multiple generous benefactors in our community who make this possible.”

Trustees approved the purchase of a police dog and handler screening and training from Delaware County-based Storm Dog Tactical at 3024 North 3 B’s and K Road.

By Lenny C. Lepola

Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.

Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.