Police facility open house on Thursday shares plans on consolidating, improving safety

If not for its inability to house all police-related operations, safety issues such as criminal suspects mingling in tight quarters with judges and defendants, and the unlikelihood it could remain functional after a major earthquake, the City Hall building on Southwest Griffith Drive would make a decent public safety facility.

That these and other problems have gone largely unaddressed for years, if not decades, is prompting Beaverton Police Department officials to push for a $35 million expansion and retrofit of the building the department has shared with city courts and general administration offices since 1986.

Plans Mackenzie architects and police staff presented to the City Council on Tuesday night are dependent on voters approving a bond measure for no more than $35 million. Provided the council’s approval by next summer, voters would see the bond proposal on the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot.

The city’s administrative offices are set to relocate to the South Office Building at The Round at Beaverton Central by the summer. Mackenzie’s plans call for police, courts and related facilities — such as the city’s Emergency Operations Center — now housed at offsite locations to absorb the resulting space. An addition to the building will further increase its overall space from 79,000 square feet to 115,000 square feet.

With the building’s basic footprint and structure to remain in place, seismic upgrades would allow its functionality in the wake of a major earthquake.

Approximately 20 alternatives — including a completely new building and other properties — were studied before the council decided earlier this year to keep police and courts where they are in a retrofitted City Hall building.

“Keeping the foundation and superstructure looked to be the most cost-effective solution,” said Capt. Jim Monger, the police department’s project manager, on Monday. “It will look substantially different than it does now.”

If voters approve the bond measure, construction could begin within three months and be complete within 18 to 24 months.

Citizens will have the first of many planned opportunities to learn about the project Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in Council Chambers at Beaverton City Hall, 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive. Beginning with a 15-minute presentation, police Chief Geoff Spalding, Mayor Denny Doyle and citizen advisory committee members will share information about how an updated public safety center could better serve the city and its residents.

A second session will be held at the same time and location on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.

“We’re excited to be taking the next steps toward a renewed public safety center,” Spalding said. “The Griffith Drive building still lacks many of the safety features common for a police department, including a sally port for secure transfer of prisoners and an appropriate juvenile holding area. These open houses are the first of many opportunities to learn about the police department’s critical needs.”

Holly Thompson, the city’s strategic engagement program manager, called sharing the funding and embryonic architectural plans with the council a “milestone moment.”

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “The drawing is not the final picture, but it gives people the concept, and it’s the first time we have a firm number for a remodel. It’s the first time we’re going forward with a solid plan.”

The issue, she emphasized, goes far beyond officers and administrators needing more leg room and storage space, but has implications including disaster emergency management and ongoing financial prudence.

“It’s not a space problem. It’s a function problem,” she said.

Much has changed in the city since 1986, when the 63-officer police department and municipal court relocated to Griffith Drive for what was intended as a five- to 10-year “temporary” location. The department now has 178 officers and support staff as well as a growing cadre of volunteer services.

The department spends about $140,000 a year to lease space around town for functions such as property and evidence storage, training facilities, traffic functions and the K9 unit, while the Emergency Operations Center is housed in the one-story Beaverton Community Center building on Southwest Fifth Street. Like City Hall, the building does not meet Oregon seismic safety standards.

Following the presentation by Mackenzie and police department staff, councilors expressed support and interest in seeing how the architectural plans will evolve.

“I want to make it very clear, this is not something we want. This is something we need,” said Councilor Mark Fagin. “We need this facility to be able to withstand an emergency.”

Despite the long-deferred facility improvements, Spalding stressed current shortcomings will not deter officers from maintaining the department’s high standards.

“We’re not making any kind of threat,” he said. “Despite our cramped conditions, we’ll always provide a high level of service to the community. I think we do a good job already, but we could do a better job with appropriate facilities.”

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