The city of Hamilton is looking to have a one-stop shop for its criminal justice system.
The Hamilton Police Department’s building was never designed to be a police station ― nor a courthouse when it was co-located there until 2000 ― which is why the city has been talking about a new facility for some 25 years.
“We’ve been talking about this probably, conservatively, for 25 years,” said Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi. “We’ve outgrown the space.”
Hamilton has set aside some $10 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds for a new justice center, which would house the police department and municipal court, but Scrimizzi said it would likely take a little more to construct.
The Hamilton Police Department and the Hamilton Municipal Court moved into the South Front Street structure in the late 1970s. It was a former Kroger building. The interior was converted to be split by police and courts.
When the courts moved to the Government Services Center some two decades ago, that forced the police department to run two operations. Moving the courts and the police department into one facility would save significant money, Scrimizzi said.
Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said it’s inefficient for the department and courts to be in separate locations, and both being about a mile from the county jail where prisoners are housed. “It’s just not ideal,” he said.
This opportunity to build and design a facility for the Hamilton Police Department is something the chief believes has never been done. Prior to its 331 S. Front St. location, the police department was in the former city building at 20 High St.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a facility that was built and designed specifically for the unique purposes that we have,” Bucheit said.
The police department has deficiencies because there are two holding facilities, two fingerprinting stations, and a checkpoint at the court “because our operations are divided.”
“Where we were once co-located, the courts and the police department are now in different locations,” the chief said. “Our goal is to bring those operations back together.”
The city’s done a couple of feasibility studies, one in 2001 and it was refreshed in 2014, being completed in 2016.
The former Hamilton Tool property was identified as the top spot for a justice center as it was across the street from the Butler County Jail. The city has since purchased the former Hamilton Tool property, as well as other parcels on Hanover Street between 7th and East Avenue.
“We have the location, it’s a great one, and now it’s just a matter of being able to fund it,” Scrimizzi said.
The public safety director believes they’d be able to fund the facility. “It’s vital,” he said. “We need it to update the facility that we’re currently in.”
Scrimizzi hopes a contract with Cushman and Wakefield will come soon for the company to manage the project.
“We don’t have a contract signed yet,” Scrimizzi said Thursday. “I hope to have that contract back to us by (today).”
Scrimizzi said the design-build project could have a firm estimated cost for the project by late summer.
Scrimizzi said Hamilton is looking for something similar to what others have constructed in the region, including the city of Fairfield’s Justice Center, which has the police department and court side-by-side. Hamilton’s latest plans show a two-story facility with the court being on the second floor.
“I think that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” he said of Fairfield’s facility. He said he’s talked with other police agencies with new facilities, such as Cincinnati Police Department’s District 3, and Monroe and Sharonville police departments.
“We want it to be user-friendly,” Scrimizzi said. “We want a good, functional facility that’s going to last.”