St. Helens City Council approves request to determine future needs of SHPD facilities

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - The St. Helens Police Department building on 13th Street is 2,200 square feet and is at max capacity. SHPD and city staff are planning to have an assessment completed to determine future growth and needs of the department, and how much an expansion or relocation might cost. The St. Helens Police Department building is in need of major upgrades and is at capacity, SHPD and city staff explain, but whether the city's best option is to expand the current building or relocate is unknown.

The results of a comprehensive police station replacement needs assessment will hopefully answer those questions and others, city staff note.

The St. Helens City Council approved a request for proposals for a needs assessment on Wednesday, Jan. 2.

Police Chief Brian Greenway said the building SHPD is currently housed in is simply "not conducive for professional operations," he explained.

Currently, officers and staff at the police station inhabit a 2,200-square-foot building, which houses several administration offices, an interview room, a room for investigative material, a single-stall shower and locker room, and a conference area — which also houses computer equipment.

Expanding the building would not only benefit the officers who work at the department headquarters, but it would also create a better experience for members of the public, Greenway said.

Over the past couple of decades, a number of plans and designs have been drafted toward the goal of upgrading the facility, but none of the resulting concepts have come to fruition. Now, city staff and SHPD are taking a serious look at the SHPD building upgrade.

A few weeks ago, Greenway and other city staff visited the Sandy Police Department, which built a new police station in 2011 that is similar in size to St. Helens' department. In just five years, the staff there feel they have already outgrown the space and are at maximum capacity, Greenway explained. The lesson to be learned, he said, is to think about the city 20 years from now and to plan for a police station that can accommodate city growth.

While a new or expanded building may be ideal for SHPD down the road, in the interim, the police department and the St. Helens School District have been sharing resources. When construction is completed on the school district's new Columbia County Education Campus, SHPD will get one of the old portable classrooms, which will be placed on the south side of the current department headquarters on 13th Street.

As of now, Greenway said there's not a specific plan in place for how to utilize the portable, but the extra space will allow the department more flexibility and room for offices and meeting space.

While completing a needs assessment is the first step, determining how feasible it is to potentially upgrade or build a new station, and finding the funding to do so, are the next major hurdles in the process.

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