Department looks to community group to tackle space needs for agency

A new citizen committee is on a fast track to explore options to tackle the space crunch in City Hall.

The Public Safety Advisory Committee met Wednesday night for the second time since forming two weeks ago.

It is led by Chairman Jim McCreight and Vice Chairman Marv Doty and includes more than a dozen civic and community leaders from a variety of backgrounds.

In the next several weeks, the group will attempt to answer some pressing questions.

'We are working with a highly motivated group of community leaders that will assist us in finding viable solutions for the critical space deficiencies of the police department and municipal court,' said Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding. 'The group will explore new facilities, options for potential sites, funding and design for City Hall, the police department and municipal court. To be successful, a project of this magnitude must have the support and participation of our citizens.'

This committee will meet every couple weeks on an 'accelerated' schedule with the goal of making a recommendation to Mayor Dennis Doyle and the City Council in May.

'We're very anxious to hear what the committee has to say - the police department has been looking into this issue since August of 2009,' Spalding said.

To put the problem into perspective, he explained that when the city began leasing its Griffith Drive building in 1986, 212 employees worked there.

Today, 353 people work in the building, which houses Beaverton's city offices, the police department and municipal court.

The court has outgrown its single courtroom and now has to use the council chambers as an additional place to hear cases. There are no private jury deliberation rooms, and prisoners are escorted through halls lined with citizens.

To begin addressing space needs, the city hired the consulting firm Group Mackenzie, which analyzed the city's current and future space needs.

One part of the firm's analysis found that the Beaverton Police Department currently offers an average of 205 square feet of office space per officer, while the average space per officer of nearby police departments is 505 square feet.

More space wouldn't just give more breathing room to current programs, Spalding said, but also make room for new programs.

'Right now we are leasing space in two other locations to house our training division and property and evidence, which is not efficient,' said Deputy Chief Terry Merritt. 'We are just out of space here.'

Both Spalding and Merritt are looking forward to the input the committee will provide on possible space solutions and potential funding options.

'It's important to have the community involved in looking at the different options because their support will be critical to the success of any project,' Merritt added.

Former reporter Angela Webber contributed to this article.

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