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Six-year quest ends: Washington Police Department to get its own evidence building

Alderpersons Lili Stevens, Brett Adams and Mike Brownfield listen as City Engineer Dennis Carr answers a question Monday during the Washington City Council's monthly committee of the whole meeting.
Steve Stein
Washington City council members Lili Stevens, Brett Adams and Mike Brownfield listen as city engineer Dennis Carr answers a question Monday during the council's monthly committee of the whole meeting.

Washington City Council members Monday gave the go-ahead to the Washington Police Department to pursue construction next spring of a $1.8 million evidence building.

The police department currently shares a building with the city's Public Works Department where evidence is stored.

Police Chief Mike McCoy called the shared building "dilapidated" and in need of a new roof and tuck pointing, work that's been approved by the city.

McCoy said the cost to make the shared building a proper place to store evidence would be higher than constructing a new building. That information came from Dewberry, the Peoria-based architectural firm that designed the new building, said McCoy.

"Deputy chief (Jeff) Stevens and I have been working on getting a new evidence building for our department since 2017, trying to get funding for the project," McCoy said. "Thanks to congressman (Darin) LaHood and other legislators, we now have the grants to pay for most of the cost.

"We'll have double the space we have now for evidence storage in the new building, and room for expansion," he said. "We'll be able to barcode evidence and keep better track of it, the new building will be 20 feet tall, and there will be a stall for a car."

Federal and state grants and federal CURES funding obtained by the city for public safety expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic total $1,318,120 for the evidence building project. The rest of the money ($500,000) for construction will come from the police budget.

Mayor Gary Manier said when the evidence building is constructed, the Public Works Department will benefit because it will be able to store equipment inside that it now must store outside.

The new evidence building is expected to be located just west of the Washington Fire Station.

No to park district board request for reduced water charges

Also at Monday's committee of the whole meeting, council members showed no appetite to approve a request from the Washington Park District board to lower the cost of water the city supplies to the Washington Park Pool and LaHood Park splash pad.

The board asked for the park district to be charged only the city's cost for the water.

Using 2022 figures, city engineer Dennis Carr determined the city's revenue would have been $9,909 less for the pool and $6,280 less for the splash pad that year had the requested agreement been in place.

"That loss in revenue would have had to be made up by residents," Manier said.

"Approving this request could open the floodgates for other taxing bodies asking for a break on what they're paying for city services," said council member Brian Butler.

Council member John Blundy agreed.

"If I was one of our school districts, I'd be knocking on our doors, asking for the same help," he said.

Tax levy up, tax rate the same

Also, the council learned the city's 2023 EAV (equalized accessed value) is expected to increase 8.41% from 2022 after seven years of minimal or low growth.

Using the same property tax rate for 2023 as 2022, which is what the city is proposing, that would mean a $164,143 increase in the city's 2023 tax levy (taxes collected in 2024). The council is scheduled to vote on the levy on Dec. 18.

The city's portion of a Washington resident's tax bill is about 6%.

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