Steve Smith, owner and designated broker of Sun Valley Realty, supports a new Sequim police station but wants to set the record straight about the current facility.
Smith, also property manager of the Sequim Village Shopping Center for owner Dick McNish, said recent presentations by the City of Sequim’s staff to inform citizens about the upcoming vote on a tax increase for a new facility were off-base with two details.
He’s asked Police Chief Bill Dickinson and City Manager Steve Burkett to take out parts about the city’s rentals having mold and a roof beam collapsing, which he said are untrue. The city complied.
City staff have been presenting on the upcoming ballot measure, which would add one-tenth of 1 percent public safety sales tax to help build a new police station. It goes to a city vote on Aug. 7.
Dickinson said they’ve taken two slides out of the presentation — one showing a picture of what he had thought was mold and a photo of cracking around a steel beam.
Last August, Clallam County Fire District 3 reported to a fire above the police station after a contractors’ roofing tar caught a portion of the roof on fire. Fire officials snapped photos and sent them to Dickinson saying there was structural damage.
“There’s no problem now that they fixed it,” Dickinson said of the city’s landlords.
Smith brought in Gene H. Unger Engineering, Inc., and a contractor to inspect and repair the building in November 2011.
“One metal plate was in the wrong place during the building’s construction and moved and inspected to be structurally sound,” Smith said.
Unger surveyed the rest of the building and it was found safe, too, Smith said.
As for the perceived mold, Dickinson said at the time he wasn’t sure what was coming off of a few walls of the police station.
“I said there was something leaching from the walls. White fuzzy stuff growing out of the walls that looks like mold, but the landlord told us it’s not mold,” he said.
“What they are looking at is minerals, mostly calcium, that washes out of concrete walls,” Smith said. “There’s no health hazard at all.”
Smith said he agrees that the police department needs a new building.
“Back in 1995, it was supposed to be a temporary building,” he said.
“We don’t want the reason for them to move out because of something that’s untrue. As property managers, we’re still going to have to rent these spots.”
The city rents three units in the building for about $124,000 a year.
“It’s not their fault,” Dickinson said of the police needing a change. “We’ve tried to carry out police function in a non-police functioning building. We’re supposed to be in a structure that’s to a higher standard. Looking at the history of the city, we’ve never had a dedicated police station ever.”
Dickinson can give a laundry list of needs for the city police department, ranging from a shooting range to a ventilated evidence cabinet to a more secure prisoner drop-off to more holding cells.
“It’s a lot of little things,” he said.
When the police moved into the shopping center, Sequim’s population was much lower and a number of regulations weren’t in place yet.
“We bring in blood-borne pathogens here. We bring in narcotics. At the time we didn’t worry about airborne pathogens but now there’s a big susceptibility to them,” Dickinson said.
“These were things we didn’t even think about then. And now we’re trying to meet federal and state regulations in a building that we can never become accredited in.”
Space limitations led officers to convert rooms to functional purposes, like a forensics lab or storage.
Dickinson said it’s taken 15-plus years to get to this point for a new police station — probably because of its high cost.
If approved by voters, the city plans to build a police station in conjunction with a new city hall for a combined civic center. The 30,000 to 36,000-square-foot building would cost about $12 to $14 million.
Part of the new police station would include an emergency operations center that would serve as Sequim’s disaster management center.
In previous discussions, city staff indicated funding would come from the $280,000 a year from the tentative sales tax, diverting former rent payments, paying off city debt like the Keeler Park purchase in coming years to free up those funds, and using other revenues such as utilities and real estate excise tax.
Dickinson said the city isn’t asking people to fund the city hall the same way as the police station.
“The city intends to build a police station and emergency operations center with help and would find it more economical to build both at the same time, but the city hall is by the city,” he said.
“It’s different when you tell people it’s two different funding sources. The ballot is clear. The city council’s goal made it clear.”
With the election less than a week away, Dickinson said he’s not one to count his chickens before they are hatched.
“Personally, after 100 years, I hope the city gets its own police station,” he said. “I think the Sequim community wants competent professionals on the beat and they have that. All we need is a facility.”
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.