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Moving ahead with a new public safety building

City council focuses on two possible locations in LO

The Lake Oswego City Council is pushing ahead with a plan to build a new public safety facility at either the West End Building property or on Evergreen Road, just south of city hall.

The council on Tuesday voted to pay architect Brian Jackson to conduct a deeper analysis of those sites as areas the city might locate a new building for police, emergency dispatchers and the municipal court. Today, all three operate out of the same building at city hall, at 380 A Ave.

A 2008 analysis found that of all the major city facilities, city hall is in the worst shape, and the most significant of its problems are on the second floor, where police and emergency dispatchers work. The building doesn't meet seismic safety standards for emergency responders. It also comes up short on the amount of space needed for various functions and operations.

Jackson reviewed possible locations for a new public safety facility based on property ownership, access, impact on surrounding areas and existing land uses and suitability for radio communications. His recommendation: Relocate public safety services to an undeveloped portion of the city-owned West End Building property, or on undeveloped, privately owned land at the northwest corner of the Boones Ferry Road and Kruse Way intersection.

Those two options were also supported by Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson, whose top choice was the site on Boones Ferry Road.

'We get 300-plus or minus people coming in here to court each week,' Johnson said, noting the Boones Ferry location would offer decent public access for court visitors.

However, councilors opted to stay with areas that are at least part city-owned. They also noted that, with the Evergreen Road location, the city might be able to construct a new police station and dispatch center behind city hall but keep the municipal court where it is today, scaling back the amount of space needed for the new facility while ensuring police officers don't have to travel far to get to court.

'I think it's a good location,' councilor Mike Kehoe said of Evergreen Road. The option could require the city to buy some property now housing a law office on Third Street, but Kehoe said he prefers to keep city hall, the court and police station at one location.

Added councilor Jeff Gudman: 'The advantage of the site here is we have the ability to pay for that.'

Council members Donna Jordan and Bill Tierney were the only two votes against further analyzing a new building at the WEB or on Evergreen Road.

Jordan expressed concern that the cost and effort put into planning and design could balloon if city hall is added into the equation, as it could be with a project on Evergreen Road.

Still, she said, 'I think we need to keep moving this forward. We need to keep looking at it and decide what the timing is and what the priorities are for how we build this into the community.'

Tierney said he worries about putting competing bond measures before voters.

'The big question I have is does the community want a new library and a new police station at approximately the same time,' Tierney said. 'I can't foresee how we would fund this particular effort without a general obligation bond.'

City leaders are also now considering asking voters to back a new library building downtown as part of urban renewal efforts in the area.

'I think we're moving in a very scattered way and we need to sit back and look at what we're doing as a council.' Otherwise, Tierney said, 'We're going to end up at the end of the day with neither.'

But others felt they had already waited too long to move ahead with a new building for police and emergency dispatchers.

'Our responsibility is to do what is in the best interest of the community,' Mayor Jack Hoffman said. 'If we perceive we need a new public safety facility, I think we have an obligation to go forward.'

Councilor Mary Olson agreed.

'Since 2009, the council, the prior council and the current council have made the public safety facility our No. 1 priority - over a library, over city hall, over a streetcar,' she said. 'This is a priority. … We have been dragging our feet.'

Councilor Sally Moncrieff said the economy and voting climate might be rough today, but that could change in the future.

'Unless we start stepping toward a new public safety facility, we're never going to get there,' she said.

'I feel a great sense of urgency to construct a public safety facility that can withstand a seismic event. We're the third council to talk about our facility needs, which we all know are many. And what keeps coming back from the public is our citizens' No. 1 priority is a safe, seismically sound first-responder facility.'

Today, not counting shared spaces and common areas like hallways, stairwells and elevators, the three services take up about 11,800 square feet at city hall. The proposed new building, with the size based on 2008 recommendations from SERA Architects, would be about 41,350 square feet.

But that number is likely to drop, because Jackson, the architect, will review whether that much space is needed.

The cost estimates will also likely change as additional analysis is completed - especially if the new building is smaller than size than originally envisioned - but initial projections peg a new facility at the WEB site at $22.4 million, and at the Evergreen location at $29 million.

Generally, a $20 million bond measure would cost homeowners $20 per year for every $100,000 in property value, according to the city. Additional analysis of the Evergreen Road and WEB locations is anticipated to cost about $100,000.

The additional work will probably take about four months, said Jackson.

If the council decides to build the new facility, design would take one year and construction another, he said.