Beaverton Public Safety Center will cost $6 million more
Beaverton's planned Public Safety Center, which will house police and the emergency operations staff, will now cost $6 million more than the $35 million that voters approved about 18 months ago.
But the final bill is due when the center at Southwest Allen and Hall boulevards is completed in 2020, two years from now.
Asked at a city budget committee Thursday night (May 24) what the elected councilors and appointed public members should do, Finance Director Patrick O'Claire said: "For tonight, nothing, because this is in the future."
Still, O'Claire said they should be thinking about how to close the actual gap, which will be less than $6 million because $1.4 million can be drawn from interest earnings.
Public member Clay Moorhead, a Beaverton real estate broker, proposed a 4-cent increase in the city property tax rate, proceeds from which (about $378,000) would have been reserved for debt repayment.
"It's still a drop in the bucket," he said. "It doesn't make a big dent in that ($6 million) number."
Still, he argued, that amount — tripled over two or three budget cycles and compounded — would help.
"We have a two-year window to build this," he said. "It's a commitment we have given to the community. It's an expectation we have. And it can go significantly underfunded. We ought to start doing something today."
Moorhead's proposal was rejected on a 6-3 vote.
"We don't need to do this," Councilor Marc San Soucie said. "It's too expensive."
A new building has been envisioned for the Beaverton Police Department for several years.
Voters in 2014 rejected a $35 million bond to rebuild the former City Hall at 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive, where police are housed now, so that it can withstand a severe earthquake triggered off the Oregon Coast. That option became moot in 2015, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency redrew the floodplain to include the Griffith Drive building.
When voters approved a $35 million bond in 2016, the construction estimate from two firms was for $388.87 per square foot. But last September, when Skanska Construction did an estimate, the estimate rose to $418.98 — and in December, to $443.82.
The latest estimate in February, when the public was invited to see a preliminary design, was for $452.77 — an increase of 16.4 percent over the November 2016 estimate.
"This project is not the only one facing this kind of escalation," Police Chief Jim Monger told the budget committee. "There is a lot of construction work going on. It is just what the market is right now. It is challenging for us to stay up with that."
The City Council approved a rezoning Feb. 13 to consolidate three parcels at the site, and city building permits are pending. The city still has to demolish the former Beaverton Activities Center and clean up fuel spills — both on the still-operating Shell gasoline station and an adjacent site — before ground is broken early in 2019.
Monger said officials have attempted to reduce the projected cost.
"We took a look at the square footage of the building and started to bring that down. It is at the minimum square footage we need for a building that will last Beaverton for the next 30 years," he said. "For a facility like this, it's not like a wing you do not build."
Monger said officials have rejected an alternative for a redesign by Shiels Obletz Johnsen and FFA Architecture and Interiors, the other members of the project team. He said it would add at least three months to the project — and any savings would likely be consumed by higher construction costs.
O'Claire said that while finance officials have not yet developed an overall plan to close the funding gap, the city is scheduled in October 2021 to pay off a special revenue bond of $7 million for improvements to City Hall, the former Coldwell Banker building in The Round that the city acquired in 2012.
The city also could borrow money in addition to the 2016 bond issue, which will be repaid in increments from property taxes by the late 2030s.
"But if you borrow money, you still have to pay it back," O'Claire said.
His advice? "My recommendation is to build this project as fast as we can."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.