Last November citizens in Salem and Beaverton each voted on bond measures to build a new police facility. Here in Salem, voters rejected an $82 million, 148,000 square foot plan that cost $555 per square foot by a margin of 52% to 47%.
In Beaverton, voters approved a $35 million, 90,000 square foot plan that cost $389 per square foot by a margin of 50% to 49%.
This was the second try for Beaverton. In November 2014 voters there rejected a different public safety plan, which included a new police facility, by 53% to 47%.
Tomorrow, Monday, February 6, at 6 pm, Salem's City Council will be discussing plans for a reduced cost/size police facility in a work session. Public comments will be heard. I'm going to be speaking along the line of this blog post's central theme:
If a PLAN B proposal is going to be approved by Salem voters in May, just six months after they rejected the original over-priced plan, City officials need to demonstrate that they've (1) markedly reduced the cost of the police facility, and (2) heard the call of voters that the Library and City Hall need to be made earthquake-safe, just as the new police facility would be.
Since I led the fight against Measure 24-399, the $82 million original proposal, I'm very familiar with the "Vote NO" arguments that resonated most strongly with voters.
Namely, (1) and (2) above.
The overall cost of the police facility plan was too high, as was the total development cost per square foot. Also, people in Salem didn't like the idea of moving Police Department staff out of City Hall, a building that would collapse in the coming Big One earthquake, while then moving other City employees into the same space -- and also leaving the Library without vitally needed seismic retrofitting.
You can review the new plans of City officials by clicking on this link.
This information was only made publicly available on Friday, February 3. So citizens were given very little time to inform themselves about those plans before the City Council work session tomorrow. This is no way to handle public participation and open government. Obviously more meetings need to be held where people can weigh in on the new police facility proposals.
I'm pleased that a 115,000 square foot plan has been put forward. It eliminates construction of a new 911 Center that can stay in current leased space for about another ten years. It also reduces the number of very expensive spaces in a parking structure from 163 to 100.
Together, it looks to me like these steps reduce the cost of the police facility by about $12.5 million.
But since seismically retrofitting City Hall and the Library is estimated to cost $19,155,000 ($12, 696,000 for City Hall; $6,459,000 for Library), obviously the cost of a PLAN B bond measure would end up being higher than the original $82 million measure if the police facility cost is reduced by only $12,5 million while making City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe add more than $19,000,000 to the bond measure.
[Update: I should have noted above that the City's 115,000 square foot option estimated to cost $63,936,000 does reduce the cost of every budget line item in the original $82 million police facility plan, aside from "Site and demolition construction," which goes up slightly. So kudos for the overall cost reduction of about $18 million, which is $5.5 million more than the $12.5 million I cited in the paragraph above. However, this basic point remains: reducing square footage while leaving the total development cost per square foot the same markedly reduces the potential of building a more cost-effective police facility that Salem voters would approve money for in a new bond measure -- especially if essential seismic retrofit upgrades to City Hall and the Library included in a new bond measure cost as much or more as the cost reductions made to the police facility. Exacerbating this problem is the fact that City officials appear to want to add more than $25 million of building repairs and renovations to the "retrofit" budgets for City Hall and the Library, boosting the cost to $44,529,000. That $25 million essentially is to pay for deferred maintenance on the buildings, and it shouldn't be part of a police facility bond measure.]
Thus the big problem that needs to be addressed is the very high total development cost per square foot of both the original and new Salem police facility plans. As noted above, the original plan had a cost of $555 per square foot, which is by far the highest of any police facility built in Oregon recently.
The new 115,000 square foot plan isn't very different: the total development cost is $556 per square foot (this includes construction, furnishings, land acquisition, architectural design, contingency, and some other costs).
By contrast, the 90,000 square foot Beaverton police facility bond measure approved by voters last November had a cost of $389 per square foot. Some proponents of the original $82 million plan for Salem have claimed that this Beaverton cost didn't include all of the elements that go into a total development cost calculation.
But this isn't true, from what I can tell. Here's a section of the description of the Beaverton bond measure 34-250 in the voter pamphlet. See:
Download Beaverton Police Facility bond measure
Note that the Beaverton police facility will be built on city-owned property, while a new Salem police facility is planned for the site previously occupied by the O'Brien auto dealerships just north of downtown.
So to make the total development cost figures for Salem and Beaverton comparable, I took out the $$5,473,000 land acquisition cost for the Salem police facility.
This brings the original $82 million cost down to $76,527,000, which, when divided by 148,000 square feet, makes the total development cost per square foot $517. And it brings the $63,396,000 cost of the new 115,000 square foot plan down to $57,923,000, which equates to a total development cost per square foot of $504.
Thus when land acquisition costs are taken out of consideration, Beaverton is planning to build a new police facility for $389 per square foot, and a new plan put forth by City officials for a 115,000 square foot Salem police facility costs $504 per square foot -- 1.3 times the per square foot cost of the Beaverton facility.
Which is a lot of extra money taxpayers would be expected to fork out.
If the 115,000 square foot plan cost only $389 per square foot, this would make the total without land acquisition $44,735,000. Add in the land cost, and we get $50,208,000. Compare that to the $63,396,000 cost projected by the City of Salem. It's a $13,188,000 difference.
Why is Beaverton able to build a new police facility for so much less money than Salem? This question needs to be examined closely and carefully by the Salem City Council, concerned citizens, and City officials. Here's a couple of reasons that pop out for me.
(1) Beaverton, I'm pretty sure, is using surface parking, not a parking structure. The cost of 100 spaces of structured parking for the Salem police facility is $2,645,000. I've never understood why this is a necessity. There should be plenty of room to park police vehicles in available surface parking on the O'Brien site. Why not use the largely empty Marion Parkade, just a block away, for parking of other vehicles used by Police Department employees?
(2) Salem hired Chicago's DLR Group to come up with the size and cost of the original police facility plan. Beaverton hired the Mackenzie architectural firm, a local company. Mackenzie also designed the Canby police facility, which was built in 2012 for only $220 per square foot. It seems clear that serious consideration should be given to dumping the DLR Group and hiring Mackenzie to work on a new Salem police facility plan, since Mackenzie has demonstrated that it can build a modern police facility for about 30% less per square foot than the DLR Group can.
Here's a conceptual image of the Beaverton police facility. Sure looks good to me.
And here is a link to information about the Beaverton police facility, which is a great model for Salem. The page starts off with:
In November 2016, Beaverton voters approved a ballot measure to construct a modern, earthquake resistant police and emergency management building.
Beaverton’s public safety center will consolidate police services, move police facilities out of a flood zone, and meet residents’ needs for the next 30 years:
- Built to critical-facility standards.
- Private areas for crime victims and juveniles.
- Onsite storage for property and evidence—eliminating need for offsite rented space.
- Flexible design for future growth.
- Community meeting rooms.
- Emergency Operations Center, with modern equipment, that is ready for emergency response during major wind, storm, flood and other events.
Meet residents' needs for the next 30 years. This is important, because the number of square feet per police officer is about the same for the Beaverton facility (657 sq, ft.) and a 115,000 square foot Salem police facility (635 sq. ft.).
(2014 FBI statistics indicate that Beaverton had 137 police officers and Salem had 181.)
So if the Beaverton police department has concluded that a police facility which currently provides 657 square feet per officer will meet the city's needs for the next 30 years, I don't see why this doesn't also apply to a 115,000 square foot Salem police facility that provides 635 square feet per officer, just 3% less.
For all the reasons in this blog post, I believe that Salem needs to follow in Beaverton's footsteps:
- Build a 115,000 square foot police facility with a total development cost, excluding land, of about $389 per square foot.
- Seismically retrofit City Hall and the Library to save lives and property when the Big One Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits Salem, a matter of when, not if.
- Ditch the over-priced DLR Group, which came up with the original over-priced and over-sized plan. Consider hiring Mackenzie, which designed the Beaverton police facility.