Lincoln City City Councilors last week got another glimpse at why the town’s police department needs new headquarters.
The current police facility off East Devil’s Lake Road, just north of the Outlet Mall, is getting to be quite old and Chief Killian says they have simply outgrown it. On top of that, the building is not ADA compliant and it would not survive even a moderate earthquake, let alone “the big one,” since some of it is held up by glorified stilts.
Chief Killian says workflow and general operations are inefficient and often cumbersome. He said it’s time to give Lincoln City a more up-to-date police headquarters that the citizens of Lincoln City deserves.
But what about the cost of a new police building?
It’s around $8 Million. For now.
So where’s the money going to come from? Several sources, according to the city’s financial advisor, including hotel-motel room taxes, system development charges and from the city’s general fund. Trouble is the city might want to finance a new police department over more than a ten year period. So now they’re talking about a twenty to thirty year finance plan backed up by the full faith and credit of the city. That would given them the longer financing period.
But that will require the voters of Lincoln City agreeing with the plan. If they can get the voters to put the eight million on the full faith and credit of the city, the city can build a new police headquarters without a big hit to the city’s piggy bank up front. So look for a ballot measure in May that poses this very question.
As for the building itself some wonder if now is the proper time to begin committing to a new police headquarters in light of the fact that discussions continue at the county level about consolidating police and sheriff’s services county-wide. The idea is that having three law enforcement agencies operating in a county with a population of around 45,000 is inefficient. If the three agencies – Lincoln County Sheriff, Lincoln City Police and Newport Police consolidated into one agency, it would reduce the costs of upper management while putting some of the savings into putting more patrol officers on the street. Such a move would reduce response times and enhance law enforcement visibility. Work flow could be streamlined by working off a common computer data network which would also lower costs for individual cities and allow more efficient sharing of crime information because criminals typically commit crimes everywhere in the county. And such law enforcement consolidations are common across the country.
The other aspect is dispatch services. Should the city continue to put a separate stand-alone dispatch operation in the new police building when further consolidation of dispatch services also remains a possibility. Newport, the Sheriff’s Office and most Lincoln County fire departments consolidated dispatch services a couple of years ago and it appears to be working well, saving each agency money. Councilors were told that Lincoln City’s annual cost for having it’s own 9-1-1 system is bumping up against a million dollars a year – and that’s with a state subsidy. With strains on the state budget, including huge new costs for it’s state worker retirement program and for highway projects, the state is looking for ways to cut costs, and those subsidies for far-flung dispatch centers are certainly still an issue. Oregon State Police work off of just two dispatch centers that cover the whole state.
The point is that the city is on brink of an $8 Million dollar project that few think will be just $8 Million when the city gets around to building it.
Still the city council unanimously agreed to spend $50,000 to hire a consultant to develop a clearer design for a new police department building. The consultant’s report will give more clarity on the true costs. The council also gave the green light for city staff to put a question on the May ballot asking Lincoln City voters whether they would approve the new building – with no new taxes – by putting the project on a funding plan that uses multiple city funds over a twenty to thirty year period to soften the hit to the city’s budget. As mentioned above those funding sources include hotel-motel taxes, system development charges as well as the city’s general fund.
Lots of moving parts.