Gosh, maybe this is too radical an idea for Salem's Mayor and City Council, but it sure seems like a "Public Safety" bond voters will be asked to approve in the November election should actually keep the public safe -- rather than being a massive waste of taxpayer money to build an overpriced Police Palace.
A few years ago our sometimes-wise City officials recognized a scary truth: City Hall and the Library are almost surely going to collapse when the next massive Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, a.k.a. the Big One, strikes.
Children at the Library's Storytime would be crushed under tons of rubble. City staff who should be available to help Salem recover from what will be the biggest disaster in the history of North America will be dead or seriously injured.
Linda Norris, the City Manager at the time, said this about City Hall in a 2013 Statesman Journal story:
"The way it is, right now, city employees wouldn't even be able to get out of the building alive, much less use the building.”
As reported by Salem Community Vision in a must-read position paper, "Salem's New Police Facility: The Best Way to Achieve It," in 2013 City officials were all set to spend about $20 million on essential seismic upgrades to City Hall (and probably also the Library) as part of an $80 million Public Safety bond that included about $60 million for a new 75,000 square foot police facility with underground parking on the Civic Center campus.
But community resistance to this plan led to some Chicago consultants being hired. Unfortunately, their supersized plan doubled the size of the police facility to 150,000 square feet, so $80 million would only pay for it alone.
So now the previous plan to make City Hall and the Library earthquake-ready to save lives has been sacrificed in order to construct empty space in a supersized police facility that might possibly be needed 30 years from now by the Police Department -- though this is by no means certain, as hardly anything in life is.
What is certain is this: the Big One earthquake is a matter of when, not if.
Yet currently the only "plan" (using that word loosely) City officials have to fund seismic upgrades to City Hall and the Library is to use fantasized cost savings from a $80 million police facility bond to pay for them.
The dream of Mayor Peterson and some equally clueless city councilors is that a competitive bidding process to construct an $80 million police facility will result in a 25% cost under-run that magically leaves $20 million to be spent on making the Civic Center earthquake-ready.
Over on my other blog I've ranted about the craziness of not making the seismic upgrades:
"Why a new police facility could cost many lives"
"Earthquake readiness: will the Salem City Council choose to save lives?"
"A Moral Must: make Salem's Library and City Hall earthquake ready"
Eugene is acting a lot smarter. Plans are being laid to build a new City Hall to the highest possible seismic standard even though this will cost more.
Download Stronger and Spendier Register Guard story
With the changes, Bohman said, “City Hall is becoming safer, greener, more welcoming and a better long-term investment for the community as a result of this extra time and work.”
An apparent driver of the anticipated cost increase is the work to strengthen the building to a standard reserved for buildings deemed essential in an emergency, including fire and police stations and hospitals, so they are immediately operable after a major earthquake or other disaster.
...Richard Rogers, the state’s chief building official, said such a building should ride out a major earthquake with only minimal damage, but it may need minor repairs before it can be operable again.
“It’s not falling down,” he said. “There should be no loss of life.”
Yet here in Salem, City officials are even balking at retrofitting City Hall and the Library to a lesser earthquake standard, "Life and Safety," while Eugene is heading toward building a City Hall to an "Immediate Occupancy" standard.
This is shameful. Lives are at stake.
Yet Salem's Mayor and City Council appear to be willing to let children and other visitors to the Civic Center die so a Police Palace can be built that is twice the size of the police facility City officials said was just fine a few years ago.
If you're as upset about this as I am, email the Mayor and City Council at email@example.com
They're having a work session next Monday, April 4, to discuss plans for the new police facility. Tell them they have to restore money in a Public Safety bond for making the Library and City Hall earthquake-safe.
Otherwise voters should make sure in November that this bond is as dead as the people who will die at the Civic Center if the seismic upgrades don't happen.