GALLIPOLIS — After years of waiting for a much-needed new facility to conduct the business of the City of Gallipolis, employees of the Gallipolis Municipal Court, Gallipolis City Police Department and City Solicitor’s Office, along with many other city officials, gathered together during the grand opening of the Gallipolis Justice Center on Thursday afternoon to thank those individuals who played a role in the development of the building that will soon become a permanent fixture in the community.
Gallipolis City Commission President Jay Cremeens made opening remarks during a ceremony held inside the state-of-the-art municipal courtroom and praised the work of those involved with the construction of the justice center, including the work of the previous commission.
“This is a project that has been in the works for over three years. I want to thank the previous commission, who served before us, in getting the ball rolling as far as beginning discussions of the replacement of the old building at 518 Second Avenue,” Cremeens said. “So, the previous commission got the ball rolling, and the present commission took off with the ball and kept running with it to what we see today.”
Cremeens further thanked Gallipolis Municipal Court Judge Margaret Evans who has greatly assisted the city in paying for the construction of the approximately 12,000 square-foot structure.
“We owe Judge Margaret Evans a considerable amount of praise,” he said. “Through the generosity of the judge — through her court fees and court costs, she is a very frugal person — she was able to save massive amounts of dollars that she, herself, put into this facility. It would not be as functional, and it would not be as nice as it today if it wasn’t for you, Judge, and I appreciate you.”
Cremeens, who served on the Gallipolis Police Department as a patrolmen in the late 1970s, also spoke of the exemplary work of those officers who work in the City of Gallipolis and occupy one portion of the new building.
“There are so many things these guys do that we don’t know about,” he said. “They are long-deserved of what they have here in this police department.”
Patrolman Jamie Bartels, who was present at Thursday’s ceremony, was also recognized by Cremeens as an example of the men and women who serve their community as officers of the law.
Bartels was severely wounded in the line of duty at the end of September and is currently recovering from his injuries.
“I pray for him every day, and I ask that each of you pray for him every day. He’s got a long way to go with his recovery,” Cremeens said. “He’s served our community well.”
While continuing to speak about the police department, Cremeens also recognized the work of the late John Taylor who, during his service to the community, worked as the police chief, as a captain on the fire department, as well as a city commissioner. A plaque in commemoration of Taylor is in place by the flag pole at the new facility.
Additionally, Cremeens also recognized former police chief Joe Owens, who was in attendance on Thursday, as well as the late Steve Wilson, who also served with Cremeens on the police force.
Also recognized was David Poling who died in the line of duty in May 2007. Poling had served as a Gallipolis Municipal Court Probation Officer, a Gallipolis City Police Officer and a Gallia County Sheriff’s Deputy.
“We honor those guys today and people like Jamie Bartels who about lost his life serving our community,” he said. “We thank you all, and this is a building owned by the citizens of Gallipolis. We hope it stands the test of time.”
City Commission Vice-president Steve Wallis also spoke briefly on Thursday’s open house at the justice center.
“I just want to thank everybody for working with us. It was a community effort. This is not something that just the five commissioners did, along with the manager and everyone just in the city departments themselves,” he commented. “It was a community effort, and we’ve accomplished something that I think you are going to be very proud of and I can’t wait for you to look at.”
The longest serving current commissioner, Jim Cozza, also spoke briefly about the sometimes arduous process of discussing and planning for the new facility at 518 Second Avenue.
“I believe it was worth the three years we spent arguing about what we were going to do because, I think, what we wound up with is something that we can all be proud of,” Cozza said. “I think this building will serve the citizens well for many years to come, and I am proud to have been a part of being able to put together this facility for the citizens of Gallipolis and surrounding communities.”
In her remarks, Judge Margaret Evans emphatically thanked all those individuals involved in the process of constructing the Gallipolis Justice Center.
Evans spoke of the work of Project Engineer Randy Breech, project contractors Garrett Karr and Brian Morrison of the Kinsale Corporation, as well as City Manager Randy Finney.
“[Finney] came in and worked just a little while in that old building and knew we could not stay there. It was not stable structurally, environmentally stable. He pushed this through, and I appreciate that,” Evans stated. “He’s been honest, flexible and wonderful to work with.”
Also mentioned by Evans was her court staff, including Chief Probation Officer Mike Smith who worked closely with Finney, Breech and Kinsale to incorporate the needs of the court within the construction plans.
Additionally, Evans thanked all past and present city commissioners involved in the project for their leadership and vision in making the building a reality, as well as the community for pushing the commission to construct the much-needed facility.
“I thank the community for coming to the meetings and letting the commissioners know what you wanted out of this building, because it is the community’s building. It is the city, it is the court, it is the police, but it is everybody’s building,” Evans said. “The community was behind us, and it was wonderful.”
“This is as showy a place as we have here. I would not be embarrassed, as matter of fact, I would be proud to show this building to any other judge in the State of Ohio,” Evans said. “We have a showplace here, and it’s because we all pulled together and got it done.”
Randy Finney also gave his heartfelt thanks to former city manager Joe Woodall who passed away earlier this month. Woodall had been working as the project coordinator for the city.
“He helped bring about this building,” Finney stated. “He did a lot for this city no one knows about. He was the man behind the scenes. He knew a lot about what was going on in this city, and I learned a lot from him. I want to thank him also and his family for what they did for us.”
Among the last to speak was Police Chief Clint Patterson who commented briefly about the reality of the new facility and the length of time those who have served the city have been looking forward to inhabiting the well-deserved building.
“Twenty-six years ago, I came to the Gallipolis Police Department as a reserve officer. On the day I was sworn in as a reserve officer, Joe Owens was the chief of police and he was there to swear me in. After we were done, he went to his desk and pulled out a set of plans and said, ‘they haven’t given final approval yet for this, but we are going to get a new city building in the next few years,’” Patterson said to chuckles from those in attendance. “He told me, ‘wait, we’re going to be in a great place.’ Well, I think that’s happened. It took a little longer than he envisioned. It has been a long journey.”