Poulsbo city staff studying possible police move to City Hall

POULSBO — Less than six months after moving into its new municipal campus, the City of Poulsbo may scramble the building's floor plan so its police department can take over space formerly intended for the Bainbridge Island Municipal Court.

City staff will perform a due diligence study over the next two weeks to determine whether its police force could move into vacant space in the lower level of City Hall, Mayor Becky Erickson said. The space was originally built for the Kitsap County satellite district court, but county budget cuts led to the consolidation of its court services in Port Orchard last year.

Last week, Erickson cut short negotiations with Bainbridge leaders after a months-long effort between the jurisdictions to share court space failed. Moving the police department into City Hall could allow the city to further consolidate its services, and potentially sell or lease prime downtown property.

"The most important thing is we have to make sure the services the police department provides to the citizens of Poulsbo will be unchanged," Erickson said.

The idea to move the police in with the city's other services dates back roughly a decade, when the city first began looking at other locations for City Hall. At the time, the force didn't respond favorably.

"The police felt very strongly that they did not wish to be associated with general government services, that theirs was a standalone branch and what they were tasked with doing was not necessarily compatible with general government," Councilman Ed Stern recalled.

The option resurfaced for discussion in 2008, when as a councilwoman Erickson called for the police department to be moved into the new City Hall before building designs were approved. At the time, Erickson lobbied for the move because she was concerned the building's 30,000-square-foot size was too large and too much space would go unused. She removed herself from a City Hall planning team after the idea was voted down by the City Council.

When negotiations between Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island began to falter earlier this year, the possibility of relocating the police came under discussion again. Island officials were unwilling to pay Poulsbo's price to lease the 2,500-square-feet, and Poulsbo leaders disagreed certain facets of the building needed alteration to accommodate the court safely.

Now Poulsbo city staff have been tasked to determine whether City Hall is compatible with the police force's daily operations. If given the green light, Erickson said an architectural study will be done to determine the cost of the relocation. While the court chambers would remain in the lower level of City Hall, the court's administrative services would be moved to space currently for lease on the upper floor.

Police Chief Dennis Swiney said his staff have yet to determine if the move is a possibility, but that it could provide increased visibility for the department, currently at 367 NE Hostmark St.

"I'm hopeful and optimistic that we can make it work for everyone," he said.

Staff members will evaluate whether processing people in custody, storing evidence and staff vehicles can be accommodated at City Hall.

Erickson said she hopes the City Council can vote on the option soon. The relocation could also reshape the downtown corridor, as it would leave behind a parcel at the head of Front Street with potential for underground parking.

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