Opinion

Police move to City Hall is a good decision | Editorial

As this editorial was written, Mayor Becky Erickson and Police Chief Dennis Swiney were finalizing a plan for the police department to move from 367 Hostmark St. to City Hall.

It’s a good move that means a more efficient law and justice system, better security for police department resources, and more revenue to pay off City Hall’s debt. To date, nearly all city department administrators have moved to City Hall.

As reported earlier, City Hall, at 30,000 square feet, was built for the future. But it’s huge and has a lot of unused space. Erickson’s plan is to move the police department to the same floor as Municipal Court, and move court administration to office space on the third floor. At that point, City Hall will be fully occupied.

It makes sense to have law and justice in the same location. Besides parking and traffic infractions, the court handles criminal misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and protection orders for victims of domestic violence. There’s secured parking, which means easy transport of suspects from booking to the county jail in Port Orchard.

Some other benefits to moving to City Hall, according to Swiney: “We will be able to interact with city staff on a regular basis, City Hall will be a one-stop shop for all city services, we will be in a state-of-the-art facility, and there’s a generator so we can function 24/7, 365 days a week regardless of outages.”

City Hall, which opened in November, cost about $15 million to build. The average annual debt is expected to be $800,000 until 2026, when the first bond issue is retired. The payment then will become about $410,000 through 2034.

Erickson wants to sell the old city hall site at 19050 Jensen Way, with proceeds used to offset the debt from City Hall’s construction. Ditto for the undeveloped lot that had been proposed as a museum site on Jensen Way, appraised at $168,000 (the old city hall property is listed for $1.25 million). The police station on Hostmark Street will be sold or leased if the department moves to City Hall.

The Poulsbo Historical Museum moved to City Hall, smart because museums often are the best repositories of important documents. The museum is buying its space in City Hall for $200,000 over five years, helping to offset debt from City Hall’s construction.

All told, this means about $2.4 million in proceeds from property sales and an additional stream of revenue from the lease of the old police station site that can be used toward City Hall’s debt. The city will save maintenance and improvement costs associated with those properties. And we look forward to the economic development that will come from new use of those properties. Redevelopment of the old city hall site will be a dramatic and welcome improvement to the cityscape.

“City government has to get more efficient,” Erickson said in an earlier interview. “We shouldn’t be in the land speculation business. Cities that do that end up making some bad decisions sometimes. We should spend only what we take in.”

As stated earlier on these editorial pages, City Hall – despite its imposing size —  could become a symbol of a leaner, more efficient local government.

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