There are a couple of things that 62B District Court Judge William Kelly is proud of when it comes to the City of Kentwood’s Justice Center. One, that it was completed on budget and on time and two, the functionality of the facility.
“I wouldn’t trade this facility for any courthouse in West Michigan,” Kelly said.
And Kelly can add one more thing to that list: the city officially has paid off the $10 million bond issue within its 15-year time frame. To celebrate the achievement, there will be an open house Friday, May 6 at the Justice Center, 4740 Walma Ave. SE, next to Kentwood City Hall.
“The city did it through financial prudence,” Kelly said about paying off the bond, adding that because of that Kentwood has earned AA+ bond rating, which is very rare for a municipality.
It was in the face of overcrowding and the need to add police officers to its city that then Mayor Bill Hardiman went to Kentwood residents and told them that if they approved a millage to add an additional 20 police officers to the current 50-member force, city officials would find a way to build the center that would house the 62B District Court and the Kentwood Police Department, according to Kelly.
The millage was approved and the Kentwood City Commission set about to do what had been promised.
“It was hard for the city commission,” said Kelly, who has served as the district judge for 37 years. “It was the first time the city had ever gone for a bond for a general obligation.”
The commission approved a $10 million bond for 15 years to be paid out of the general fund. Several key city officials were involved in the design of the new Justice Center including Kelly, former police chief Richard Mattice and former public works director Ron Woods, who was in charge of overseeing construction.
Before the Justice Center, the city had to rent trailers to house some staff from the police and finance departments. Within the current city hall, the former district court space became the city commission chambers and the former police department space became the mayor’s offices.
“We are thrilled to make the final payment for Kentwood’s Justice Center,” said Mayor Stephen Kepley. “Our citizens made a significant investment and we have ensured that the facility is paid off on schedule and is adequately maintained for the long-term benefit of the community.”
A couple of years later, the city would take out a $15 million bond for a new fire station and public works facility along with the remodeling of city hall and two other fire stations. In 2008, voters approved a library millage for the construction and maintenance needs of the current library facility, which was the last building within the city complex located off of Breton Avenue.