Here's the post I put up a little while ago on my Strange Up Salem Facebook page while I sat in the City Council chambers and listened to a lot of people testifying about the City of Salem's proposal for a new $80 million, 150,000 square foot police facility.
O'BRIEN SITE ROCKS. BLOCK SOUTH OF LIBRARY SUCKS.
This is the clear message of the many people who are testifying at tonight's Salem City Council public hearing on a new police facility. Great turnout. Lots of impassioned testimony.
People who live and work at the block south of the Library (Leslie block) don't want to lose their homes and livelihood. Listening to them, I kept thinking, "Why didn't City staff and the DLR Group consultants see this coming?"
So far, nobody, repeat NOBODY, is in favor of demolishing the Leslie block for a giant police facility. But this was one of two site possibilities a City Council subcommittee came up with after hearing from the DLR Group consultants.
Yet some people have been saying that these expert consultants HAVE to be trusted when it comes to the size and cost of a new police facility: 150,000 square feet, $80 million, even though they obviously were wrong about the suitability of one of the top two sites.
My testimony focused on the need to earthquake proof City Hall and the Library -- which was part of a Public Safety bond proposal until the size of the police facility doubled in size and cost after the new DLR Group consultants from Chicago were hired.
I haven't heard a single person speak in favor of letting children at the Library die because a vastly over-priced police facility has sucked up all the money that was previously going to fund seismic upgrades to the Library and City Hall.
But many people have spoken about the need to earthquake proof the Civic Center. Now that the site seems to have been chosen, the O'Brien property just north of downtown, the next Big Question will be whether seismic upgrades are made part of a Public Safety bond.
Like I said in my testimony, if it is important to get Police Department staff out of the ground floor of City Hall because the building will collapse when (not if) the Big One earthquake hits, why isn't it equally important to save the lives of other employees at the Civic Center, and visitors to City Hall and the Library?
I'm still waiting to hear an answer to this question from City officials and the DLR Group consultants. Until I hear a convincing reason why building an extravagant Police Palace is more important than saving lives at City Hall and the Library, I'm going to continue to support the Salem Community Vision proposal:
Salem voters should be asked to approve a $50 million bond measure that includes full funding for a $30 million, 75,000 square foot police facility at Commercial and Division streets, along with $20 million for seismic upgrades and other renovations at the Civic Center.
I understand why the OBrien site is coming to the top - it is for sale, centrally located, and it's big. The police station is a fit for the OBrien site, but is anyone thinking about is the OBrien site perfect for a police station? Is that really the highest and best use, or was it selected because it was big and available?
The OBrien site's highest and best use might be for market rate or workforce housing in the North Broadway. Additional housing would increase property taxes (instead of taking the land off the tax roles) and stimulate business and services in the North Broadway Mixed Use area. I am not sure the police station will do the same.
Posted by: Carole Smith | March 01, 2016 at 11:49 AM
Carole, good points. I've thought along those lines also. Probably what you said should have been considered more seriously by the City of Salem and its consultants.
Along this line, I was surprised to hear someone say at last night's public hearing that if a police facility isn't built on the O'Brien site it could stay empty and derelict for decades. That doesn't ring true to me.
A Statesman Journal story published soon after the auto dealership left for another location said that the property was desirable and, if I recall correctly, probably wouldn't be vacant for long. It's such a central location, it sure seems like various uses could be made of it.
Posted by: Brian Hines | March 01, 2016 at 12:14 PM
Brian do you know how much these consultants cost the city for their work? It seems that this decision could have been reached without them and just using a little community input and common sense. I wonder if the consultants were used more as a shield to be able to deflect any possible critique or criticism of this whole process.
Posted by: Salemander | March 01, 2016 at 02:41 PM
I agree with the comment from Salamander. It would be good to have an expose of just how much the City has spent on consultants. Just in the last three years they hired ZGF Architects, Portland (who did the Capitol Wings and the Oregon Convention Center for maybe $130,000? CB-Two Architects for associated studies. Then the $30,000? Poll that told them an $80M bond measure would FAIL, then the Chicago firm DLR Group who just doubled the size, from 75,000 to 150,000 sq.ft. Now it's $82M and they had to drop the life saving seismic retrofit of the civic center, in order to build the "super-sized" police palace. Another Poll will be done (after the fact) which will surely tell them AGAIN that the voters of Salem insist on first saving lives and second building an affordable police facility. Those fees are being kept secret, but may be close to $300,000 because the Bednarz site was added to the contract. Perhaps an investigation will find that the City has spent $500,000 and these costs do not show up in the City Budget, and the Budget Committee may be unaware.
Posted by: Geoffrey James | March 03, 2016 at 09:03 AM
Salemander, we know that the new contract with the DLR Group consultants cost at least $142,000. It may be $20,000 more, as this was the cost of adding a site assessment for the block south of the Library -- which ended up getting zero support from Salem citizens. It's unclear whether the DLR Group "ate" this additional cost, of if the $142,000 contract was increased to $162,000. See:
Geoff's comment notes that the DLR Group is just the latest in a string of consultants paid from some sort of slush fund at the City of Salem. No one knows what the total bill for police facility planning has been so far. Likely $300,000 is a conservative estimate; it could be quite a bit more -- especially if City staff time is included.
Posted by: Brian Hines | March 03, 2016 at 12:34 PM