By: Mike DeWitt
The cake was cut and commemorative bottles were opened as the City of Kentwood celebrated paying off a 15-year, $10 million bond on the City’s Justice Center this past Friday. The celebration was led by Mayor Stephen Kepley and quickly handed off to the two men who put the plans together 15 years ago, Judge William Kelly and former Chief of Police Richard Mattice.
Before the Justice Center was built, the Police Department and the District Court were housed in the Kentwood City Center. It was a cramped working environment that limited the productivity of both staffs.
“We were really cramped,” said Judge William Kelly. “One of our clerks in the court had to be put in the back of the courtroom, and that was also our city commission chambers.”
“Before [the Justice Center] was built, the police department used the City Center but also had two trailers that housed our detective bureau and our community services bureau,” said former Police Chief Richard Mattice. “Our locker rooms were across the street in the fire station.”
It was apparent that the court and the police department needed a new home, but how? Kentwood had never taken out a bond for a building before. For a city as fiscally conservative as Kentwood, it was a big step to take.
“The mayor promised the voters that if they approved the millage to hire more police officers, then the city would build a new facility without going to the public for another millage,” said Kelly.
So, with that on the table, the millage was passed to hire more police officers and the city got to work on building a new facility. Planning started in August of 2000 with a groundbreaking ceremony quickly to follow on March 22, 2001.
Coming in at 60,000 square-feet, approximately 20,000 on the court side and 40,000 on the police side, the Justice Center added much-needed room for city employees to do their jobs.
“When we moved in here, we came from 5,200 square-feet to 41,000 square-feet,” said Mattice. “We had facilities to adequately meet the public which we didn’t have before.”
In the end, the Kentwood Justice Center was completed on time and on budget. 15 years later the building was paid off on time and is one of the reasons for the city’s AA+ bond rating – a rating very unusual for a city the size of Kentwood.
Another example of the City of Kentwood doing what is best for the community.