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.