West Linn group says its time for a new police station

Two dozen residents take to the streets to advocate for passing an $8.5 million bond measure
by: Vern Uyetake Alice Richmond of West Linn – a member of a political action committee rallying for a new station for the West Linn Police Department – passes out fliers at a concert at Tanner Creek Park encouraging voters to pass a bond measure in November.

For local residents in an emergency situation, it's most likely the West Linn Police Department will respond first. But who responds to the cops when their situation gets potentially dangerous? One local group - about 30 strong - is sounding the alarm and wants your help.

Last month the West Linn City Council decided to ask voters to finance a new police station by putting an $8.5 million bond measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The site: Four properties in the Willamette neighborhood between Les Schwab Tires and Bullseye Coffee.

The estimated cost: $46 annually for a $285,000 home over 20 years.

The reason: The existing police station built in 1936 and located near the West Linn-Oregon City arch bridge isn't seismically safe, is crowded but can't expand past its current footprint and has little parking.

The catch?

Citizens shot down a $10.8 million bond measure to fund a new public safety facility in May 2010. At that time, the site was suggested up the hill at Parker Road. But this time around - with a new site and lower bill - will voters pull the trigger?

West Linn residents Bill Hill, Grant Oakes and Alice Richmond - and other advocates in a political action committee - hope so. They're passing out fliers on-foot at local summer events, visiting citizens door-to-door and discussing the plan at public presentations. And they started the website http://itstimewestlinn.org and are posting regularly to their Facebook group 'NewWLpolicestation' and 'newwlpolicestation' Twitter account to get the word out about the cause they're policing.

'The new site doesn't have wetlands,' Richmond said. 'The whole site is buildable - and it's flat and accessible to go to the freeway and the north side of West Linn and to go up the hill for any emergency thing.'

'Less than a Frappuccino'

A separate citizen task force spent months comparing 16 proposed locations before settling on Eighth Avenue and 13th street in the Willamette neighborhood. The $8.5 million price tag includes property acquisition and building construction.

Factor in results from a city-commissioned survey that found that citizens were more likely to spend $50 a year for a new station than $60 and Hill thinks this proposal has a shot.

'We're at $46 a year,' said Hill. 'Last (time), the word 'Taj Mahal' was used. This (new) plan is basic and functional. It's 12.6 cents a day ... for 20 years.'

'That's less than a Frappuccino,' Oakes chimed in.

Educating the community about their plan is the group's main focus. Its members have backgrounds in fields such as marketing and design and a retired police officer and retired school superintendent. In Richmond's plea for the police, she emphasized that the building will be publicly owned.

'It's taypayers' money,' she said. 'It's a long-term investment. It's not temporary.'

Hill said that in researching West Linn's history, he's discovered that West Linn has always had its own police force - as opposed to shared services with a nearby city.

'This is our community. This is our police station,' said Hill, noting that building the structure will be a public process involving design and construction firms. 'This is one of the very best times for construction costs to build facilities. We want to leverage that with a community need.'

The purchase of the four properties - two on Eighth Avenue, two on 13th Street - for the police station are contingent on voter approval of a bond measure. If the measure fails, the city wouldn't be obligated to buy the land but would lose $40,000 in earnest money to the property owners. As a timeframe, the tentative agreement allows one of the property owners to continue living in or renting out two houses through June 2012.

'We have a lot of hard work to do between now and (the election),' Hill said. 'But, the ballots go out in October. We want to get the word out and let the public have a good understanding of the location and cost. We're citizens like everyone else.'

But while some citizens argue that difficult economic times and low levels of local crime don't warrant a new station, Richmond is quick to point out that emergencies strike at any time and preparing the police force would benefit any citizen 'in a time of need.'

For now, you may see the group leading meetings for local organizations or walking in your neighborhood, and Richmond said that's all part of the plan.

'I'll be out on foot. Whatever it takes,' she said. 'We have a 99 percent crime-free city. ... It's because of our (police) personnel, and our personnel needs a building to do their work.'

For more information, visit the website http://itstimewestlinn.org.

Assistant Editor Kara Hansen Murphey

contributed to this report.