The City Council voted 4-0 Monday night, with Councilwoman Debra Williams absent, to authorize no more than $720,000 to be spent on the jail remodel project. The Kennesaw Police Department and the 25-year-old city jail are both located at City Hall, a block west of Main Street.
Diversified Construction of Georgia was awarded the bid, although their original estimate for the work was $831,000 in November.
Chief of Police Bill Westenberger said the council had given a budget that was lower, so Diversified was asked to reduce the amount of work and provide a $20,000 cushion for adjustments during construction.
Now the jail project will have less of an expansion goal and focus on $700,000 worth of improvements, with $12,000 going to Diversified Construction for overhead costs and profit.
Councilman Tim Killingsworth, who served in the Marine Corps as an aviation mechanic and aircrew member until he retired in 1995, chairs the Public Safety committee.
Killingsworth said the list of priorities for the upgrade was determined by Westenberger.
“We have an obligation to maintain a safe facility,” Killingsworth said.
The improvements to the police station will be paid for with funds seized through the Civil Asset Forfeiture Act, a controversial federal law that allows police to seize a person’s property whenever they believe it could be connected to a crime.
These cash seizures often involve local police working as part of a federal task force, Westenberger said. If a Kennesaw officer is assigned to a federal task force, then a portion of the money seized in the busts is given to each jurisdiction participating. But police agencies don’t even have to make an arrest or file charges in order to seize cash or other assets from suspects under the federal forfeiture law.
Recent, future changes to police department
The $720,000 in funds is just for Phase I of the jail renovation project, which will include buying a replacement generator. Westenberger said there will also be plumbing, architectural and security upgrades.
The jail renovations will start immediately and the interior upgrades should take three months, Westenberger said. Then the bidding process will start for the exterior renovations, Phase II, with changes to the parking lot to address security concerns and include fencing.
In the past two years, Westenberger said Kennesaw has filled 10 officer positions. The Kennesaw Police Department has an annual operating budget of $4.6 million, with 80 employees, including corrections officers, records clerks, administrative assistants, and 67 sworn police officers.
The maximum holding capacity of the jail is 30 inmates. That number will not increase after the renovations.
Westenberger said inmates are booked and housed at the Kennesaw jail for offenses committed in the city, such as traffic offenses like driving under the influence or driving with a suspended license.
Persons who face felony charges are transported to the Cobb jail. Inmates are also transported if they will be tried in state court.
Even with Kennesaw’s population of 30,000 growing, Killingsworth said he is “very comfortable in our ability to service the community.”
If there is a need for more police officers or resources in the future, Westenberger would have to come back to the City Council with those requests, Killingsworth said.
Fast-food chain coming to Kennesaw
Another national fast-food chain will be moving into Kennesaw after the City Council approved a rezoning request at Monday night’s meeting.
A Hardee’s restaurant will be constructed on an acre of vacant land at the corner of Jiles Road at ITT Tech Way, in the far north section of the city.
Although there is no change in the property’s zoning as a Community Retail Commercial district, a condition on the plot requires the City Council to give site approval on a new development plan.
The Hardee’s will be part of the Kennesaw Pavilion, a 21,875-square-foot shopping center between Baker Road and Kennesaw 75 Parkway, near ITT Technical Institute.
Zoning Administrator Darryl Simmons said the franchise would begin construction of the new Hardee’s location immediately.