Mayor/Council Members Clash On Police Storage

by Gabe Bullard on July 25, 2008

Since April there’s been controversy surrounding the safety of a proposed police storage facility near the Cardinal Hill reservoir in Louisville. This month, the Mayor’s office agreed to look at other sites for the facility. But the arguments could be more explosive than the structure itself.

At the Cardinal Hill reservoir site, Lieutenant Rich Sohan with the Louisville Bomb squad looks out at the center of the controversy.

“There’s a burmed wall, an earthen wall about 600 feet away from where we’re standing right now,” says Sohan.

Underneath that wall is a reservoir. The structure that would go on the surface 600 feet behind it has been called a bomb storage facility and a bomb shelter, but officially, it’s a type two storage magazine. As such, it will follow federal guidelines and not store more than 50 pounds of explosive material.

Councilman Doug Hawkins says that’s too much to put near South Louisville’s water supply.

“The problem is, what kind of a seismic wave would it create?” he says. “And would some kind of seismic wave compromise the reservoir?”

“In order to cause damage to that reservoir, which is underground, you would have to be able to have a charge, sub surface which would send all that energy to there in order to damage that reservoir,” says Sohan. “It would take a lot more than 50 pounds in order to do that.”

Sohan says the facility will temporarily store materials the bomb squad confiscates and doesn’t consider dangerous enough to detonate. That means fireworks, weapons and the occasional dynamite, grenade or antique war shell.

Hawkins doubts the materials will be that benign.

“It’s not Jerry’s cherry bomb squad, it’s the bomb squad,” he says. “They handle very serious, very deadly munitions.”

“We gave out a list to every one of the 26 council members a list of the stuff that had been in the sheds we have today,” says Mayor Jerry Abramson.

He adds that the list doesn’t include…

“…Nuclear devices, anthrax, bombs, hydrogen…”

“I mean, all we’re trying to do is get the facts out so people can understand,” he says.

The city legally has to have a place to store bomb squad materials. The current facility doesn’t meet federal guidelines, and Abramson accuses Hawkins of delaying the new storage facility by exaggerating the Cardinal Hill situation to energize his campaign for the state Senate.

“Councilman Hawkins has a way of, for lack of a better term demagogue-ing an issue,” says the mayor.

Hawkins says he’s not exaggerating, and the city has not been honest about the site, not about the search for an alternate location and not about what will be stored there.

“Not at all. Not one iota,” he says. “They have not been honest at all. This has been one exercise in deceit and it’s been controlled by the mayor and by the administration.”

At the Cardinal Hill site, Lieutenant Sohan points out that if the facility were to explode, the first thing damaged would be a MetroSafe tower. If it fell, a multi-million dollar communication system would be crippled. He says the site is as safe as any other that meets federal guidelines. And he’s not alone.

“In my opinion, it’s much about nothing,” says Paul Haydon, the executive vice president of Armag. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal there myself.”

Armag is the Bardstown-based company that makes the storage units, or magazines. They sell the same facilities to the bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Armed Services. The only difference between the facilities is the locking mechanism on the door.

“Magazines are built for the safe and secure storage of the contents, in this case, explosives,” says Haydon.

Haydon says accidental detonation isn’t a major concern for his clients…security is, though. It’s the type of security that could be compromised if maps of the magazine’s location were distributed, like they were by the city at a Metro Council meeting. It could also be compromised if the location were featured online, like it is in videos on Doug Hawkins’ YouTube page.

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