Council takes a second look at adding municipal court to facility

by: GROUP MACKENZIE - This is one of the designs being considered for the new police station. The design took into consideration the saving of a large black walnut tree. Second-guessing the complete use of the new police station facility, the city council discussed Monday whether or not to add the municipal courts to the structure.

Though council members all agreed the current court structure within city hall is unsecured and inconvenient for police officers, money and parking limitations may prohibit tacking the courts on to the police station project.

During its work session, the council received a presentation on the design process for the proposed building, which will be located at Eighth Avenue and 13th Street. The $8.5 million project is being paid for through general obligation bonds that were approved by voters last November.

Project Manager Bob Galante, along with Director of Design Dick Spies of architecture and design firm Group Mackenzie, presented the conceptual design for the station.

Because the site has a nearly 25-foot decline, they proposed to situate the station on the southwest corner of the property, closest to Eighth Avenue and 13th Street. There would be 60 secured parking spots behind the building for police vehicles and 20 public spaces to the east.

Inside, the building would be 16,420 square feet on the main floor with another 5,260 square feet below. The main floor would include offices, administration, records storage, lockers, a lunchroom and a community meeting room. The partial lower level would have a workout room and evidence storage.

“It’s a very community-oriented building,” Spies said.

A few weeks ago, when the police station steering committee saw the initial design, members wanted to revisit the option of including the court in the plan.

According to Thomas Frank, who is a planning commissioner, serves on the steering committee and is running for city council, the community room was not originally recommended by the committee because there is a similar room at the apartments across the street. He added that the committee originally encouraged including the municipal courts in the design during the 2010 bond measure that failed.

Frank expressed disappointment that the city would not at least design the facility to accommodate the courts at a later date.

According to West Linn Management Analyst Elissa Preston, the 2011 reduced bond measure of $8.5 million was based on a needs assessment report for a police facility only, on a smaller piece of property, with a smaller square footage. A recommendation to include a municipal court was not discussed by the steering committee or the council until September.

The community room is included in the design because it will also serve as the police department’s emergency operations center in case the current center (at city hall) is unavailable.

“Rather than have one room to serve only this purpose, the steering committee recommended that it be turned into a multipurpose room, which can be shared with the community,” Preston said.

The current design does allow for further growth, should circumstances allow it in the future, according to Preston. The multipurpose room faces the parking lot and could be added on to if the neighboring properties become available. The parking lot is also situated on the property with this in mind, to allow any potential future growth.

Today, the municipal court is located in the city hall chambers. The room is not secure. Frank also pointed out that the court is not on a bus line, which can be a hardship for some of those who must appear in court. The new police station is on a bus line.

Galante told the council he would need another 2,000 square feet in addition to taking over the community room to add a court chamber and related offices. But the biggest issue, he said, would be accommodating the additional parking needs the court would generate. A new traffic study would be needed to fully weigh the options.

“I know for a fact parking is a huge issue in that area,” Councilor Jody Carson said.

If the design process is stopped now and redirected to include the court, not only would it delay the construction process by about a month but it would also cost more money, which is not allocated for in the bond.

City Manager Chris Jordan said there is about $200,000 in reserves over the city’s reserve policy that could be used for the redesign, but with increasing expenses related to PERS, he recommended against using it.

Councilor Mike Jones suggested spending $10,000 on a feasibility study and Councilor Teri Cummings said she would like to know cost estimates related to redesign and construction.

In the end, the general consensus of the council was just to move forward with the current project.

The design team will return to the council Nov. 5 to show the final design prior to starting the land use process. The city hopes to complete the project by April 2014.

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