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City starts search for new police station site

Bond measure might appear on November 2016 ballot


The Forest Grove City Council authorized staff Monday to pursue the possibility of building a new police station on a different site than its current Pacific Avenue location.

That was one of three options detailed in a McKenzie study of the best ways to replace the 12,868-square-foot station, which city officials say is far too small for the police department’s current staff of 36.

The two other options would either renovate the current building or replace it with a new structure on the same site. Their advantage is that the city already owns that site. Their disadvantage is that the site is too small and wouldn’t provide the flexibility needed for a good design.

In addition, those options would both require relocating the entire police department until the new building is done, while the other option would allow the staff to work uninterrupted at the current site until the new one is ready.

The problem with a new location is not just that it would cost extra to buy new land, but that very few of the commercial sites for sale in the city are the right size for the project.

At a work session Monday night, council members directed city staff, including police officers, to work with the city’s Public Safety Advisory Commission to educate the public about the project and its importance, as well as to develop criteria for a new site (size, proximity to other city departments, etc.) and then to look for a potential site.

McKenzie estimated the cost of new land at about $700,000.

Another $2.2 million would let the city remodel the current building into office space to either rent out or use for other cramped city workers. The alternative of converting the current site into a public plaza or park or community space and would lower overall costs.

In order to get a better sense of just how much money the city would need to request from voters, councilors authorized staff to create a Request for Proposal for architecture and engineering work related to a new station, including a cost assessment.

Councilors also discussed the best time to roll out a bond measure to pay for the new station.

Forest Grove Finance Director Paul Downey noted that the current public safety levy expires in June 2018, meaning the city will probably ask voters to renew it in the November 2017 election, making it a bad time to also ask for police station money.

Next May’s election would coincide with the final payment of a general obligation bond that has been costing homeowners about $70 annually for a home assessed at $200,000. That would free up homeowner money, although the bond for a new police station could cost twice as much.

And the city wouldn’t be ready with the new bond measure by that time, said Downey, leaving November 2016 the earliest date to put one on the ballot.

Although some residents might not like the idea of paying for a new police station, the need for one goes above and beyond tight quarters: There’s a 2022 state deadline for all police stations in Oregon to meet seismic standards, said Police Chief Janie Schutz. Forest Grove’s station does not.