Expanded Civic Center would house police department, emergency dispatch and municipal court operations

The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency is considering the acquisition of private property on the City Hall block at Third Street and A Avenue for the construction of a new public safety facility.

The building would provide a new home for the Lake Oswego Police Department, which is now housed on the second floor of City Hall, as well as emergency dispatch and municipal court operations. The city has allocated $3.5 million toward design and property purchase, with a total projected cost of $18 million.

“The LORA board has asked that we explore purchasing some of the other properties on the City Hall block,” city redevelopment director Brant Williams said. “That’s really as far as we’ve gotten.”

The pared-down $330 million city budget approved June 3 was a significant reduction from the previous year’s spending plan, and its line items reflect a general desire by the city to get back to the basics — specifically, to focus on strengthening infrastructure.

An expanded civic center, including a new public safety building, is listed as one of the high-priority projects — a project many say is long overdue.

“It’s not a real functional building,” Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson said of his department’s current digs. His staff of 69 people is crammed into the second floor of City Hall, Johnson said, and with no community or training rooms available, any training the department does happens at the West End Building.

The current configuration also means that the police department does not have much street presence, Johnson said, making it difficult for members of the community to find.

“The second floor, with all the offices around the outside of the building and a dispatch center and record center inside, is not really conducive to doing business,” Johnson said.

And the building is not up to current seismic code.

“The building is not earthquake-safe, and we don’t want the communication lines to go down,” Johnson said. The department provides dispatch support not only throughout the city, but also for the cities of Milwaukie and West Linn.

The $18 million estimate reflects the costs of a structure that would be separate from City Hall, but likely located on the same block. The price was calculated in a refinement study released in February 2012, which assessed the police department’s needs and concluded that a new facility would ideally provide just over 36,400 square feet to house law enforcement, emergency dispatch and municipal court operations, with 129 devoted parking spaces.

“My hope would be to build something that would last for years, and which would serve Lake Oswego for many years to come,” Johnson said. “These buildings are typically good for 20 to 30 years minimum.”

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