Why is a new police center a priority for the City of Salem?
The Salem Police Department occupies 26,000 square feet on the first floor of the Salem Civic Center. That was built in 1972 when the population of Salem was half of what it is today. The police facility was not designed to meet the diverse needs of a modern police department nor accommodate growth that has occurred in the last 45 years. The standards to which the building was constructed do not meet the current requirements to ensure that public safety operations can continue after an earthquake. Several important operations regarding public safety, including the department’s crime lab and the 10,000-square-foot 9-1-1 center, are located off‐site in about 21,000 square feet of leased space.
How has the issue of a new police facility been discussed and evaluated?
For more than 10 years, the city has tried to identify a way to provide a seismically stable facility that
consolidates public safety functions and better meets the needs of Salem residents. City staff, elected officials, consultants, university student groups and community members have examined the need for a police facility. Following the recommendation of a 14-member, resident‐based, Blue Ribbon Task Force on the police facility in 2015, the City Council directed staff to engage the services of a national expert in police facility design to better inform decisions about the appropriate size, location and cost of a facility that will serve the Salem community for decades.
What do the experts recommend regarding size, location and cost?
The DLR Group, which has worked on more than 70 public safety facilities, began its work with a
thorough review of the entire operations of the Salem Police Department. The DLR team spent four days in Salem conducting interviews with 29 separate police operational groups. This
comprehensive look at the unique operations of the department and opportunities for consolidating services, combined with DLR’s expertise in design for security of visitors and staff, efficient work flow and movement throughout the facility, and accommodating future growth, resulted in a recommended 148,000 square foot facility. With the support of a local architect and development team, the DLR Group evaluated a total of 30 prospective sites in Salem against criteria used nationally for police facility siting to identify the most suitable locations. Following DLR’s evaluation and input from the City Council and the community, the Council unanimously accepted the former O’Brien Auto Group site (located at the intersection of Division and Commercial Streets NE) as the preferred site for a new police facility. The DLR Group worked with a professional estimator, the type of firm that would assist construction contractors in putting together a bid to perform the actual work, to arrive at a cost of constructing the recommended 148,000 facility in 2018. The estimated cost was $82.1 million.
What’s different about the revised ballot measure?
The November 2016 ballot measure proposed $82.1 million in bonds to build a police station of about 148,000 square feet. The measure was defeated by about 52 to 48 percent. Voters told us it failed because the cost was too high and they lacked sufficient information about the proposal to approve it. The 2017 measure to be decided in May calls for a scaled-back building of about 115,000 square feet at a cost of $61.8 million. The price tag has been reduced more than $20 million. The Friends of Salem Police is coming alongside the Salem Police Department to provide as much information about the measure as possible through personal appearances, tours and printed material, video, website, social media and broadcast formats.
What will this new measure cost Salem households?
At $61.8 million the new measure is estimated to cost 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. For a family living in a home with an assessed value of $200,000, that investment in public safety would be $52 per year or $4.33 per month or about 14 cents per day.
I get it that Salem police are working in cramped quarters, but what’s in this proposed building for me?
A new police center will be designed to have a readily identifiable, welcoming entrance where anyone can come for help. The new building of about 115,000 square feet allows all police functions, including the crime lab, to be housed under one roof, increasing efficiency of investigations, leading to quicker crime solutions. The new police center will bring all emergency response equipment under one roof, enabling a quicker police response to special-team callouts. In addition, the new building will provide greater security and privacy for crime victims. Everyone in the city benefits from Salem finally having a 21st century police center.
Instead of building a new center, why don’t you just build precincts and keep the current police headquarters?
The architects who have built more than 70 police stations around the country discouraged use of precincts for a department of Salem’s size. Their experience indicates that use of precincts duplicates services among two or more buildings, requiring hiring of more staff and keeping more officers off the street. When a police department grows to about 350 officers, it should begin looking at an additional, non-central building (precinct). When a department gets to 500 or 600 officers, there is a clear need for precincts.
Didn’t Oregon State Police just build a new building for significantly less cost than this proposal?
Yes. A private developer built a large warehouse and added office space for the state police in Southeast Salem. The OSP facility serves about 30 patrol officers. Salem’s proposed center would house 190 officers and serve a more diverse, local mission with a broader range of supporting police functions, including holding cells, crime lab and parking for large police vehicles.
Didn’t Eugene buy a building and retrofit it for $16 million?
Yes. Eugene did find an office building built in 1984 that was purchased for $10.2 million. It is about 66,000 sq. ft. To retrofit the building and remodel it cost $6.8 million; it requires continued upgrades and remodeling. It is still an office building, not built for police work. Evidence storage, dispatch center and training division are located off-site. Salem’s proposed building will always be a police station with a secure sally port, crime lab, armories, evidence storage, intoxilyzer rooms, K-9 kennels, holding cells, interview rooms and similar features not found in an office building.
Isn’t Beaverton building a new police station for less?
Yes. Beaverton is building on land owned by the city; unlike in Salem, there are no acquisition costs there. Beaverton police relies on other metro agencies for services that Salem provides on its own. Salem has its own crime lab, areas for SWAT (special weapons and tactics), bomb squad and negotiators. Beaverton doesn’t have to build for these special features. If Beaverton’s building was compared to Salem’s for similar programs, the construction cost for Salem’s center would be within $10 per square foot of Beaverton’s.
Why aren’t we getting seismic upgrades for city hall and the city library?
The City Council has approved a $15.3 million bond measure for the November 2017 election to provide for earthquake protection for the library as well as money for deferred maintenance costs. No seismic upgrades can be done to the city hall until the police department has vacated the first floor. The soonest that will happen is about three years. As that time approaches, the council will consider a bond measure to address seismic needs of city hall.
Why does a police center cost so much?
When the current city hall was built, there were no seismic standards. Now there are several levels of seismic standards that buildings have to meet to comply with city and state building codes. A public safety building such as a hospital, police station or fire station has to meet the immediate occupancy standard. That means the building must be functional after a major seismic event. To meet that standard costs on average about 25 percent more than office buildings. A center that will be open and occupied 24/7 from the day it opens until the day it closes also is more costly than building a typical office building. Salem’s police center will have a crime lab, holding cells, evidence storage, sally port, SWAT and patrol armories and other areas specific to police work. Those add to construction costs.
Why do you need a parking deck? Why not park at the nearby Marion Parkade?
Building adequate parking is part of the cost of doing business. A parking structure allows for the flow and function of the building’s design. It permits the police to bring all emergency equipment back on site. Currently, these vehicles are parked, in some cases, miles away. Police vehicles will be in secured parking, not easily accessible to the public, as they are now. Average occupancy of the Marion Parkade currently is about 89 percent. The city has a long-standing practice of encouraging new downtown residential units to partner with the city to use the parkades as a residential parking resource. Reallocating 100 spots for police parking in the Marion Parkade would reduce the opportunities for new residential developments downtown. It would also restrict short-term use of the parkade by downtown shoppers and visitors.