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Council ponders public funding for police and courts facility

Current City Hall among three locations being discussed


After piles of studies and months of discussions in various forums, the Beaverton City Council has narrowed down options to alleviate space issues plaguing the police department, municipal courts and City Hall — sort of.

While councilors have yet to reach a definitive consensus on three options now on the table, they generally agree citizens would need to play a role in financing new or improved facilities.

“We’re going to have to ask the public for money,” said Councilor Catherine (now known as “Cate”) Arnold at a special City Council meeting Wednesday evening. “We don’t have enough squirreled away. In my opinion, we need to be very careful. We want to try to control the costs of what we’re going out to ask for.”

Based on a city task force report that concluded the police department and municipal courts — housed adjacent to City Hall on Southwest Griffith Drive — are in “critical” need of safety upgrades and more space, the Council is focusing on those needs while also keeping space concerns for city government offices in mind.

With purchasing privately owned land removed from consideration, the Council is examining three scenarios involving a) the existing City Hall site; b) the vacant Westgate property next to The Round at Beaverton Central; and c) property on Southwest Hall Boulevard near the Beaverton City Library.

Where to go?

While the South Office Building, which the city purchased in April for $8.65 million, does not meet state security standards for critical safety facilities, a portion of the structure could still be used for city government offices if police and courts took over City Hall property or moved to the Westgate or Hall sites.

Based on estimates from architectural consultants Group McKenzie, the three options — as well as transforming today’s City Hall to accommodate police and courts — would cost between $48 million and $54 million and take about 30 months to complete.

Despite the refinement of options, there remains considerable disagreement on the council about where to go from here.

Councilor Marc San Soucie objects to plopping a police department near the social-oriented library and City Park area, while Councilor Betty Bode believes the Westgate property would be better served with private development tied into the MAX light-rail transit station next door.

“The highest and best use for Westgate is as a transit-oriented facility, which will be a connector between Hillsboro and downtown Portland,” Bode said, “I’m not going to spend anymore time evaluating the property for a police station and courts. It has much more potential to be vital for the city.”

Council Cathy Stanton agreed about the property, which would require the city buying the portion of it owned by Metro regional government.

“I don’t want to take a good piece of dirt like Westgate and leave it off the tax rolls,” she said.

Safety first

A primary motivation for Arnold is city’s need for an emergency operations center rated to withstand earthquake damage.

“There is a 40 percent chance (of a significant quake) in the next 50 years we have to take seriously,” she said. “We need to build that building.”

With the number of council meetings before the end of the year dwindling, councilors indicated they’d like a plan in place no later than early 2013. Details of a bond measure weren’t discussed Wednesday night, but the first opportunity to put the request before voters is Washington County’s public election in March.

San Soucie, who during the meeting read his own detailed take on solving the space and safety needs, said he envisions police and courts remaining on Griffith Drive.

“I continue to prefer the municipal government moving to the South Office Building and keeping public safety here,” he said. “There is great merit in using what we already have.”



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