The measure is ‘24-399,’ and will appear on the November 8 ballot. A “yes” vote means that the City should issue bonds for taxpayers to fund a 148,000 square foot police facility on the 700 Block of Commercial Street NE, in central Salem. A “no” vote means that the City of Salem should not do this.
“The moment this police station opens, its doors will never shut,” says TJ Sullivan, who will speak in favor of the measure. Sullivan is a partner at Huggins Insurance and Vice President of Business Advocacy at the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. He chaired the Blue Ribbon Task Force that first examined the need for a new facility.
“It will be a 24/7 facility,” Sullivan says, “and it will combine all of the facets of community protection that we need now and into the future. A community should want their 911 operators being in the same building as the police officers that they work with every day. A community should want the evidence stored in a single safe place. A community should want their public servants to be in a secure building that will be operational after a major event.”
Brian Hines will speak in opposition to the measure. Oregon blogger, author, citizen activist and treasurer of Salem Can Do Better PAC, Hines says, “Just as someone can be a strong supporter of our nation’s armed forces, yet oppose wasteful military spending, those of us who oppose the police facility bond measure admire Salem’s Police Department and Chief Moore, while disliking the extravagant $82 million plan being voted on this November… The $82 million bond measure gives the Police Department much more than it requires for a perfectly adequate new police facility, which squeezes out money for other important unmet needs in this town.”
One hot-button facet of the measure is the way it includes a 25,000 square foot 911-call center in the new facility. Currently, the region’s 911 needs are met by staff working in a leased building in another part of town, entirely separate from the police station. Opponents question whether this regional center should be housed under the new Salem police station roof.
“The current 911 Center is fine where it is, in leased space for at least another ten years,” says Hines. “A City of Salem financial analysis showed that continuing to lease space for the 911 Center saves money over the next 30 years, compared to spending $11 million to build a new Center. And Salem taxpayers would pay the whole construction bill, even though the 911 Center serves many other jurisdictions.”
Proponents like Sullivan say placing “911” in the new facility is appropriate. “The police officers want to see and be with the people they work with all day long – for them it is a safety issue as much as it is a camaraderie issue,” he says. “In addition, the 911 Center is going to outgrow its current facility and will have to move as a matter of necessity. The main reason is that a person could completely disable the 911 Center right now with a pickup truck; they need to be in a safe and secure facility.”
If voters pass the measure in November, the new police station would be paid for by an increase in property taxes. It is estimated that for the first year the rate would probably be $0.36 per $1,000 of assessed property value. For example, for a home assessed at $200,000, the estimated property tax would be $72 per year, or $6 per month.
Hines maintains that public safety can be served best if the community rejects the bond and returns “to the plan that was being pushed by the Mayor, Police Chief, and other City officials back in 2014: build a 75,000 square foot police facility AND make City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe — all for $50 to $60 million.”
Sullivan believes it is essential the measure passes for Salem’s well-being. “There is a difference between opulence and necessity,” he says. “The building is big, but it is built for the size of the police force that Salem has and is going to have. If you want to give your kids and my kids a chance to fund other needs in the city 20 years from now, let’s pass this bond.”
The issues associated with this ballot measure are more numerous than this article has space for, and audience members should expect the conversation at this City Club matchup to be wide-ranging and spirited. Both speakers take strong and passionate positions.
For those who are curious about the possible new police station but who dread the uninformative political literature arriving in the weeks to come, this meeting may be the best available opportunity to learn more.
Arguments For and Against the $82 Million Police Bond Measure
With TJ Sullivan and Brian Hines
September 23, 2016
Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill
1313 Mill St. SE, Salem
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.