Lexington police plan to move training academy to new BCTC campus

bfortune@herald-leader.comFebruary 10, 2013 

Lexington's Division of Police is planning to move its training academy from Old Frankfort Pike to the new Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus at Newtown Pike and West Fourth Street.

The move this fall will create dual benefits for the police and the college, Assistant Police Chief Mark Barnard and BCTC President Augusta Julian said.

The proposal was presented to the Urban County Council on Tuesday. The council has to endorse the proposal because it involves the expenditure of funds.

The move will give police more training space, Barnard said. "We are really squeezed where we are," an isolated area on Old Frankfort Pike.

"The thing we like best is this integrates our cadets with students on a college campus. Where they are now, they're in a bubble, segregated from everyone else," Barnard said.

The BCTC campus is a short walk from the Jefferson Street corridor that is undergoing a robust revitalization with new restaurants, bars, brewery, bicycle shop and artist studios.

"Our recruits will be able to walk to lunch. When we do physical fitness training, we can use the Legacy Trail," Barnard said. "They are going to be immersed in a college environment and the surrounding community. That makes it fabulous."

Julian said there were also benefits from the standpoint of the college.

"We couldn't be more pleased," she said. "This is the best opportunity I have ever seen in my 35 years in this business to partner with the council, the city and with the police department."

A police presence will provide security for BCTC and nearby neighborhoods, Julian said, and she expects the school's fairly new criminal justice program will receive educational support from having the academy on campus.

Julian said she has talked with Transylvania University President R. Owen Williams about a possible arrangement for Transylvania students to take classes on the BCTC campus.

The first BCTC classroom building is under construction on property that is the site of Eastern State Hospital, which was built before the Civil War and is the second-oldest psychiatric hospital in the country. A new, $129 million Eastern State Hospital is scheduled to open this year at the University of Kentucky's Coldstream Research Campus off Newtown Pike.

BCTC classes will begin in August with approximately 1,000 students on campus. When the campus is completely built, in the next 15 to 20 years, as many as 20,000 students will take classes there.

The training academy will be in the 20,000-square-foot Megowan Building, which now houses a cafeteria and gymnasium for Eastern State patients.

Renovation will cost about $1.2 million, said Ron Harris, an architect with the Kentucky Department for Facilities and Support Services and manager for the BCTC project.

Renovation will not begin until the hospital moves, Harris said. The police expect to be in the new quarters in November.

The state will pay $1 million of the costs. "We are asking the city for $200,000 to cover some things we would have left undone if the academy was not moving there," Harris said Thursday.

"We'll pay for the renovations upfront. We didn't want the city to have to come up with the money immediately because we know the state of the economy," Harris said.

The police will pay $89,239 annually for rent, utilities, maintenance and amortization on the interest-free loan to be paid back over 10 years. The rent is based on the police using 79 percent of the building and BCTC using 21 percent.

To cover rent, police are working to get out of a lease agreement they have on one building and to lease a portion of another building they own, Barnard said.

Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said the move would create a variety of new partnerships among the police, BCTC, Transylvania and the North Lexington Family YMCA, which is across Loudon Avenue from the campus.

He said police plan to reach out to surrounding residential areas including the Georgetown Street Area Neighborhood, the Near Northside Neighborhood and Historic Short Street Neighborhood.

The city will have a series of public meetings with residents and stakeholders who live and own businesses near the BCTC campus to get their ideas on how they want to see the area develop, said Derek Paul sen, the city's planning commissioner.

"What do people think they need? Grocery stores? Small businesses? Where does it make sense for those to go," he said. Those ideas will be incorporated into a small plan to guide future development in the area.

The state Department of Transportation is in the preliminary stages of redesigning the intersection of Newtown Pike, Georgetown Street and Fourth Street, Paulsen said.

Urban County Councilman Chris Ford said the proposal to move the police training facility "is nothing less than a transformational opportunity for this part of town."

Councilman Harry Clarke said he was amazed when he heard of the land swap between BCTC and Eastern State Hospital that would allow the college to move to an expanded campus setting. But the proposal to move the training academy to the campus, with attendant benefits, "is more amazing," he said.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251.Twitter: @BFortune2010.

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