Why did the City choose Maruhn Park as the location for the new Police Facility?
The City looked at many sites as options for locating a new police facility. The City discussed options with architectural and engineering consultants. The cost of a new facility would be in the millions of dollars no matter where the facility is placed, and will have to go to the citizens for property tax funding in addition to the sales tax that was approved in late 2016. This .01% is the maximum additional sales tax the City can levy by law.
There were three things the Council considered in making the decision:
1. Cost – What will the cost be to the citizens
2. Will it meet needs of the Department as Kalama grows into the future
3. How soon can construction begin so as to provide a more safe, secure and adequate space for the Department.
In looking at Real Estate the City has to operate very cautiously in order to avoid having an effect on the market value of a property which is why discussions are held in executive session until a purchase agreement has been reached. The City is only allowed to pay fair market value when purchasing property. This requirement prevents the city from increasing its offer price to encourage reluctant sellers. Municipalities instead must pursue condemnation through eminent domain if a property owner is unwilling to sell their property at fair market value and the city requires the specific property (no suitable substitute) for the public good. This is often a lengthy and distasteful process.
The City is faced with an urgent need for a facility for the Police as the current temporary location is not only insufficient in every way, but also is unsafe for both the staff and the public. Unfortunately, due to the December 2015 Flood Kalama, rendering the previous police station uninhabitable the city has not had the standard capital facilities planning horizon of 6 years to implement the design, finance, land acquisition and construction of a new location for the Police Department. A police facility is a specialized building, the design is site specific. The city chose to design the facility so it could have the most accurate and conservative request for funding go to the voters in November of 2017. Property acquisition by the City of Kalama is the decision of the City Council. The longer the City Council reviewed sites presented by the Mayor and staff without choosing one, the longer the police would continue to be without a home. So, a decision on the location was required to initiate design and to then derive a cost estimate. The City Council chose the site, recommended by Chief Gibson, the City Administrator and the Mayor. The Council believes the location is the most economical, while meeting the needs of a growing community and department and could be developed shortly after Proposition #1 goes before the voters.
What sites were considered: Spotlight - Continued
What sites were considered:
1. Corner Lot at the South end of First Street (Old Satellite Shop)
The cost for this property was appraised at $340,000. If the owners were willing to sell for that price, then there would be the costs of the site improvements just to make it a buildable lot. A building on this site that would meet the needs for a growing department would most likely have to be two-stories requiring an elevator for ADA access, as well as additional square footage for circulation within the building. While the City really liked this site as well as the idea of being able to provide renovation to a property at the southern entrance to the City with new landscaping and signage, the costs would have been considerably more than the current proposed location.
2. Lot on the Corner of Fir and First Street next to Poker Pete’s
This lot was considered and dismissed due to the configuration and size. Any facility would have to be multiple stories to provide adequate space which will add to the cost. The lot itself has access issues which would create problems for the department as well as increase costs in developing the site. The limited size and access on First Street would require the building be built over the secure parking facility, driving the cost to the taxpayers substantially higher than the Maruhn Park location. This could also be in the potential flood zone.
3. Property near the City’s Public Works Shop
There is a lot just north of the City Shop that was considered but it is set back from the road and has environmental and access issues. Being back from the road would reduce the visibility of the police to the community which added to the fact that this location is not in the downtown area as desired. The environmental issues would also require studies and reviews to obtain necessary permits extending the time to begin construction. The flag lot access is also not desirable for emergency vehicles.
4. Lots next to the Community Building
These two lots are owned by a private party that approached the City with a concept to have the City help them finance the development of the property and then lease the property back to the City. This was proposed as a concept and did not seem financially feasible to city staff. The property itself would require the homes be demolished and then there would need to extensive excavation in order for there to be adequate access to the property from 2nd street with emergency vehicles and creating underground parking at a perceived substantial cost. Zoning for this property is currently unsuited to the development proposed by the property owner.
5. Lots on Cloverdale Road near the Lions Ball Field
These lots were considered but the location in a residential zone was deemed to be undesirable as the community has indicated they prefer the site in the downtown area. There are also access and zoning issues that would have to be dealt with.
6. Lot next to the Library Building – Former Gas Station
Due to the environmental concerns related to the cleanup of the gas pumps and related ground contamination, this site was dismissed early on as these costs are very prohibitive. It is also in the potential flood zone.
The City looked at properties it already owned:
1. Former City Hall – Library – 320 N. First Street
The City did consider changing the use of the building from the Library to the Police, but the building would not provide the sufficient space for the department and allow for future growth. The City had already committed to enlarging the Library space at the facility which works well in the space. The City would have had to find another site for the Library if the Police were placed here and then it would have been looking for a larger more adequate space for the police some time in 5 to 10 years. The space is also still in the area that flooded and as an emergency facility it needs to be available during emergencies.
2. Upstairs at the Current City Hall – 195 N. First Street
The City considered building in the parking lot behind the current City Hall as well as refurbishing and updating the upstairs portion of the current building. To refurbish the upstairs becomes a total building rehab as it will require the entire building be retrofitted to meet seismic codes and require ADA access with an elevator. Any building in the parking lot would again have to be two-story at additional construction costs. The upstairs area would not provide sufficient space needed for a fully functional department. Another concern is that the upstairs is the only area that the City Hall offices has for future expansion as all the current usable space is being used. As the City grows so do all departments.
3. Maruhn Park
The site is located on the north end of the downtown core. The lot size will accommodate both a one story or two-story facility with adequate on-site parking with easy access to I5 to both north and south ends of town. This site did not flood in 1996 nor in 2015. The site would require improvements or a retaining wall, but other than that there are no extensive site development issues.
When Chief Randy Gibson approached the administration with the idea of using the park, they were very skeptical. However, Chief Gibson laid out the lines in the park, showing the possible footprint and how the space would meet the needs of a growing department. Consulting with the architects even prior to initiating design, the site was a definite possibility. Concerns with the Frontage Road access can be addressed as the old department and the Fire Department access on Frontage Road currently. The value of having an efficient public safety facility that is adequate for the next 20 to 50 years close to the downtown area was weighed against the value of a park that is used as a wayside for travelers and only on a very limited basis by the citizens of Kalama. In the end, the Council chose to move forward with the design for a facility at Maruhn Park, determining it is the best location available based on the 3 main tenants of consideration outlined at the beginning of this article. The cost estimate for construction has now been presented to the Citizens in the form of Proposition #1 for approval on the November ballot.