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Proposed Civic Center unveiled
by MATTHEW NASH
From today, June 13, to election day, it’s 56 days.
From the current city hall to a new Sequim Civic Center, it’s $12 million-$14 million.
That estimate comes from architectural firm Arai Jackson Ellison Murakami of Seattle, which presented three potential site plans for the proposed project at an open house discussing the options on June 11. About 30 people showed over the four-hour span.
Rich Murakami, architect of the three plans, said that there were no definitive comments for one site over the other.
Building a civic center stems from the city’s initial goal: to build a police station using funds from a one-tenth of 1 percent public safety sales tax going to city resident voters Aug. 7.
If approved, the city would look to vacate its current station in Sequim Village Center where it has operated since 1995.
Steve Burkett, city manager, said the city would use money now used for rent to finance a new city hall next to the station and move most city staff under one roof.
The City of Sequim currently rents Public Works for about $69,500 annually, the Police Department for about $69,000, and the City Hall Annex for about $55,000.
The tax is estimated to generate about $280,000 a year and would support a 30-year bond.
“Our estimate shows 60 percent (of the tax) is paid for by people who don’t live in city limits,” Burkett said.
“It’s probably higher than 60 percent in some cases. That means less impact to residents.”
He said other cost offsets include using taxes already received, such as the real estate excise tax, funds used to pay off the Keeler Park property once purchased, and utility operations.
Murakami said the civic center’s proposed total costs would include everything from administrative time to the furnishings.
Complaints about the police station’s current space aren’t new.
Police saw some improvements early last year with a remodel, but leaders say operational issues remain.
Police Chief Bill Dickinson listed a number of issues with the location and its lack of visibility to the public, lack of safety for transporting prisoners into the station, absence of an armory or separate evidence room for drugs, and more.
“As it is now, the station can’t be accredited,” Dickinson said.
With any of the site proposals, he said a number of these concerns and more would be addressed with a new station.
In all three plans, police would enter and exit the alley behind the civic center on Spruce Street.
Police would drive into a secure sally port from two access points.
Dickinson said this would take vehicles away from pedestrian traffic on Sequim Avenue and the Sequim Transit Center.
The police department is housed on the first floor in all plans and closest to the parking lot.
Dickinson said they’ve discussed including a basement in order to drive into a secure, private area.
A firing range is proposed in two of the plans and possibly in the third.
Dickinson said Sequim officers use overtime four times a year to drive to Port Angeles Police Department’s firing range. He said it costs the city thousands for officers to meet those standards.
Lt. Sheri Crain said they would use ammunition that disintegrates on impact and wouldn’t require ventilation thus being soundproof.
“If we didn’t think it was achievable, we wouldn’t have put it in the plan,” Crain said.
Which direction the city goes with its plans is yet to be seen.
Burkett said a final plan won’t be made until after the election if the tax is approved.
Each site plans uses 30,000 to 36,000 square feet, whereas the city currently uses about 20,000 square feet.
“The building we’re in now is from 1974 when the city’s population was 2,000 people,” he said. “Now we’re three times the size.”
Burkett doesn’t anticipate much growth in the city except for some increases in public works and police.
“It’s a real balancing act,” he said.
If city residents do approve the public safety tax, then Burkett plans to go into a design/build process to screen developers, designers and contractors.
He intends for the city and build team to sign agreements not to exceed price.
“If concrete goes up, it’ll be their problem, not ours,” he said. “It guarantees we don’t go over budget.”
Burkett doesn’t see the recent city residents’ satisfaction survey as a negative impression toward the proposed project. In their top four choices, 13 percent of respondents said city hall was an option, and a police station was a selection for 26 percent.
“Normally, people vote higher for parks than a new city hall,” he said.
As for detractors, Burkett keeps an optimistic spin.
“Some might say now is not a good time to build because the economy is weak, but you could say just the opposite,” Burkett said.
Contact the City of Sequim, 152 W. Cedar St., at 683-4139.