Saturday, February 4, 2017

City Council, February 6th - Police Station Work Session

Do you remember that spreadsheet funding tool that let citizens assemble different funding packages for the Salem River Crossing?

$2.00 toll, $1/$1000 property tax, and $0.10 gas tax = not enough
from an N3B pass at the funding calculator
It was ugly, but it let folks walk through difference scenarios and see what a range of possible realistic outcomes might be.

On Monday, Council will have a work session to revisit the prospect of a new Police Station, and Staff have gone down a decidedly constrained path. There are two choices on the menu right now:
  1. If Council chooses to refer only a police facility question, the recommendation is a 127,000 sq. ft. building for a $69.1 million bond measure.
  2. If Council determines that seismic upgrades should be included with a police facility question, the recommendation is to include the library (at $15.3 million) and reduce the police facility to 115,000 square feet (at $63.9 million) for a $79.2 million bond measure.
This is ridiculous.

The ostensible "thrifty, low-cost" option for a $69.1 million bond measure is still a giant, over-sized "Police Palace."

The more expensive option for a $79.2 million bond measure includes seismic work on the Library - but crucially appears to omit any seismic work on City Hall itself. And while it retreats a bit on size, going for the L instead of XL, it's still nowhere near the 75,000 square foot facility that was originally approved.

Council should instead get a menu of choices that looks more like this:

Floor area/staff (choose one - and remember the consultants themselves said "the generally accepted standard range [is] 400-800 square feet per officer")
  1. small (400 feet/officer)
  2. medium (533 feet/officer)
  3. large (667 feet/officer)
  4. extra large (800 feet/officer)
Growth Rate for sworn officers
  1. slow (crime rates don't rise, and Salem grows modestly)
  2. medium (Salem itself grows fast, but crime does not)
  3. high (things are falling apart)
  4. militarized growth for disaster, anarchy (the apocalypse)
If you've seen coverage about the PERS mess at the legislature, you'll know about other pressures on budgeting, and we have reason to believe that technology will be changing quite a bit, and maybe Council will decide that it is prudent to build for a 20 year growth horizon only rather than for a 40 or 50 year horizon. This punts the next decision and any new construction one generation out instead of two, it's true, but it also gives Salemites more flexibility to tackle other pressing issues right now. Dollars in hand right now are more valuable than trying to save on future construction costs a generation from now.
  1. build for 20 years of growth
  2. build for 30 years
  3. build for 40 years
  4. build for 50 years
Let those variables drive the size and be calculated...
  1. small
  2. medium
  3. large
  4. extra large
Choose construction and finish quality
  1. basic
  2. good
  3. fancy
  4. palatial
Seismic Add-ons (which seem to be more expensive now)
  1. Library ($15 million)
  2. City Hall ($29 million)
Like the Salem River Crossing this whole thing seems to be driving to a pre-determined conclusion rather than inductively arriving at what is best, what citizens want, and what citizens say they can afford.

Why can't Council - and citizens - get a model and tool that lets them game out the options and choose the package best for Salem?

SCV and others will doubtless have more to say.

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I have been asking people what they think about what it would take for them to vote for a new police bond. These people range from, I really follow this issue, to I know nothing but what I read in the paper, to I have heard and read something about the topic, but not studied it.

They all say one thing....this is the part that surprised me....the parking garage is a deal breaker. A garage no matter how big the police building is, is not needed.

Second most common comment was that the size is too big. Building for 40 or 50 years is foolish. No one knows what policing or Salem all be like in 20 years, let alone 40 years. Build small now (75,000 sq ft) and then as Salem grows add precincts. No one liked the idea of central location of all services. To them that was asking for problems if there is a quake. One person pointed out that even if the police were in an earthquake proof building, with all the other old buildings around them going to fall down, they would not be able to get to and from that building. There were various suggestions about where they would rather see the police locate. One was with Marion County jail, so there could be a helicopter pad, another on Mission where they would be close to the airport and the National Guard, and the last was on Hawthrone and D St where there is access to the freeway.

Other general comment was that unless the entire bond were in the 60s they would assume that there was waste or asking too much.

Most were aware that there were other needs in Salem and this bond would take up the taxing ability (unless the rate was increased yet again). They mentioned schools, fire and streets as bonds they were sure would be coming sooner rather than later. Someone feared that taxes would go back up to $2.02 per thousand from the now $1.01 per thousand.

My suggestion is that the City Council do some real conversation with regular people in the community before they do more proposing. Having a hearing is necessary, but it does not get to the average voter.

The timeline is tight for them to get the bond on the May ballot, but if the councilors and the city were to use some innovative methods they could get a better sense of what people want and will vote for. If they are thinking that they can 'sell' their idea conceived in secrecy and sprung on the public by just spending more on the campaign (yes, this is happening and not just an allegation) then the bond will go down again. We can't afford this. Salem needs a new police station as soon as possible. By not talking with average people (as compared to 'stakeholder') they are running the risk of losing both the bond and the faith of the citizen.

The discussion is moving in the right direction with cutting down the size of the police building and by adding some seismic work, but it is not there yet.

The matrix that you propose is very clear and would be an excellent way to get movement in the right direction.