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.