The flip side of NO is YES. Saying No to one thing often is the prelude to saying Yes to a better thing.
So I'm proud to be a naysayer to plans for an $83 million police facility here in Salem, because rejecting a bond for this over-sized and over-priced Police Palace in the November 2016 election will open a YES door to a better approach -- one that meets the needs of the Police Department plus other needs that currently are being ignored by City officials.
Here's what I mean:
Cost is too high. Salem can do better... because not only is the proposed 148,000 square foot police facility considerably larger than what this town needs, the construction cost per square foot is much higher than what other police facilities have been built for recently.
This chart is part of a Salem Community Vision post. It shows that the $562/square foot construction cost of the proposed Salem police facility is more than double the square foot cost of facilities built by the State Police and the Eugene Police Department.
New 911 Center not necessary. Salem can do better... because it isn't necessary to include a new $11 million 911 Center in the proposed $83 million police facility. City officials have been told that the current 911 Center (the Willamette Valley Communications Center, WVCC) is fine where it is in leased space for at least another ten years.
Also, why should Salem taxpayers pay the full $11 million bill for constructing a new 911 Center when the WVCC is a regional center for twenty-nine police, fire, and medical agencies in Lincoln, Marion, and Polk counties? If and when a new 911 Center is needed, the construction cost should be shared by all of the agencies.
Earthquake preparedness being ignored. Salem can do better... because the supersized $83 million, 148,000 square foot police facility has squeezed out funds for making critical life-saving seismic upgrades to the Library and City Hall.
Until a few years ago, seismic upgrades to the Civic Center were part of a Public Safety project that included money for a new $36 million, 75,000 square foot police facility. But then the police facility doubled in size and cost after some Chicago consultants came to town.
So now plans have been shelved to save lives at City Hall and the Library when (not if) the Big One Cascadia subduction zone earthquake hits, even though a main reason for a new police facility is because City Hall is expected to collapse in the Big One, and the Police Department currently is on the ground floor of the building.
Our town has many other needs. Salem can do better... because wasting tens of millions of dollars on an over-priced Police Palace means this money can't be used to meet other needs.
Imagine what $10 million, say, could accomplish if it was used to combat homelessness, or make cycling and walking safer in Salem? In May 2015 I wrote about how Portland's much-admired Neighborhood Greenway streets cost about $250,000 a mile to build. Thus Salem could have 40 miles of bicycle/pedestrian-friendly streets for $10 million.
It should be possible to (1) build a perfectly adequate new police facility, (2) make the Library and City Hall earthquake-safe, and (3) save at least $10 million to spend on other needs in Salem for the current price tag of $83 million -- which only pays for a police facility.
There will be lots of debate and discussion about the proposed $83 million police facility bond between now and the November election.
Here I wanted to explain in general why I'll be urging citizens to vote NO -- so people in Salem can have a better YES after the over-priced bond is defeated and a more sensible revised plan is adopted.
Brian: Salem taxpayers are notoriously cheap. I while back I calculated the impact of the levy on my tax bill. The impact was large enough to really piss me off. I usually support levies, but this one is ridiculous for all the reasons you mentioned. Consider adding a point that shows the tax impact to some sample tax bills.
Posted by: sue | June 16, 2016 at 08:22 AM
sue, yes, the tax bill issue is another thing to point out to voters. The way I understand it, is that the $82 million bond measure ($1 million of the $83 million police facility cost would be paid from Urban Renewal funds) would cost an owner of a $200,000 house about $108 more each year in taxes.
The City tax rate now is $1.01 per $1,000 assessed value. So currently an owner of a $200,000 house is paying $202 to pay off existing bonds. So $108 more is greater than a 50% increase.
But City officials are planning to raise the tax rate to $1.25 per $1,000 assessed value, which is about a 25% increase. The real cost of the police facility is still a 50% increase, but this would be spread out over time. As other bonds are paid off, instead of the tax rate going down, it would remain at $1.25 per $1,000.
Depending on one's point of view, this is either sneaky behavior on the part of City officials, or a good way to keep City taxes steady and predictable. Like I said, though, the cost to taxpayers is still $83 million, including bond financing costs, which should almost double the final cost (as with a home mortgage; you typically pay as much in interest over time as the loan amount was).
Posted by: Brian Hines | June 16, 2016 at 09:04 AM
I think the city needs to be honest about the true cost of the bond. Add in the interest, fees, staff time and all other costs, then let the citizens decide. I heard Chuck Bennett say the Roads/Bridges bond will be paid off before the Police Station bond is sold. I checked, and the Roads/Bridges bond will not be fully paid off until 2018. . . So is the City just paying interest only on the Police bond until 2018, or will taxes increase because we will be paying off both bonds for a couple of years? I would like to know more about how Bennett could tell citizens there will be no increase in their property tax bills when the current bonds won't be paid off until 2018.
I like the "Salem Can Do Better" slogan. I believe we can do better, and should.
Posted by: Carole | June 16, 2016 at 12:47 PM
Nice anti-tax-and-spend article by my closet conservative friend, Brian!!
Thank you for your work.
Right on every point.
In November, I hope that you will (for once) ignore the suffix and vote for the candidate that best suits Oregon as you see it.
Bud Pierce Bud Pierce Bud Pierce Bud Pierce Bud Pierce
Posted by: Harry Vanderpool | June 16, 2016 at 11:47 PM
Carole, the 2008 Streets and Bridges bonds will not be retired until 2028, not 2018. According to a recent City budget report, the next City bonds to be retired will be the Fire Station bonds that were approved in 2006. They will be retired six years from now in 2022. There have been three issuances of Streets and Bridges bonds, in 2009, 2012, and 2013. Those bonds will be retired in 2024, 2026, and 2028. And we should not forget that we are still paying off the huge school district bond measure approved in 2008 and a community college district bond approved in 2006. Everyone who pays property taxes should look at their bill and ask if they really want to take on more debt for an oversized and overpriced police facility.
Posted by: Jim Scheppke | June 17, 2016 at 09:36 AM
Thank you Brian Hines! You are a great and invaluable citizen of Salem. Salem is so lucky you live here. I say this as a native-born Salemite, having lived here all but about 6 of my 66 years!
Posted by: Frances Gail Nichols Anglin | June 29, 2016 at 02:00 PM