Salem CityWatch weighs in on Salem Police Facility Bond Measure set for May!

At Salem CityWatch’s latest meeting on March 11th, it was voted unanimously to support the May bond measure for a new police facility in Salem, Oregon.

Our President, Kasia Quillinan, wrote the following letter in support:

In Our Opinion (Salem CityWatch)

When Salem’s Police Department moved into the first floor of the then new City Hall in 1972, nobody expected that the Police Department would still be there 45 years later. In 1972, City Hall was fine for Salem’s 25 officers and staff. 45 years latter, with 189 offers and staff serving a population which has since tripled, 28,000 square feet is totally inadequate.

A modern, secure and technology-updated facility is necessary. The current design concept (115,000 square feet, at a cost of about $62 million) meets these needs. This bond will be paid off over 30 years (the usual length of bond indebtedness), resulting in an increase of about $4.20 per month per household in property taxes.

Detractors of this facility have railed against any facility which is not built on the cheap or that seems to provide an excessive amount of space. A facility will get built, but the real question is when and will it be adequate, not just for Salem’s current needs, but for the next few decades as well?

Time does not favor those who feel that the public should not pay for anything but minimal infrastructure. Detractors have already delayed the process of hiring an architect and getting a workable design in place within a year. As with every infrastructure project, every month that goes by will cost money—lots of it. The cost of land goes up. Construction costs go up. The cost of borrowing money, i.e., interest on bond payments, goes up. The land for the facility may well be sold to someone else. If the May bond measure fails to pass, it seems likely that it will be many more years before a facility gets built. It has already taken several years to reach the point we are at now.

Of course, building size is not determined just by the number of officers, or, as some have suggested, by whether the level of violent crime has gone down. Either of those claims shows a misunderstanding of the modern police force. A modern police facility must contain training rooms, interrogation rooms, rooms for detectives, crime victims, juveniles, and much more. There must be facilities for evidence processing and storage, and space for records processing and storage (even in an electronic age) – which have to be retained for many years in some cases.

It also must have administrative offices, an armory, a crime lab, computers, electronic and internet capabilities, and state-of-the art security systems. It must be built to much higher safety and resiliency standards. Outside windows and inside walls need to be bullet proof. Like a hospital, it is expected to withstand various catastrophes, ensuring that the police force itself will still be able to protect the City. Of course, all of this cost more than a typical office building.

We, the public, should not be in the business of micro-managing either the design of the facility or the cost. To do either is manifestly foolish and a sign of hubris. We should allow the experts in these matters to get on with their jobs. We should be willing to provide the police department with the tools which it needs to be efficient and effective. A well-designed facility is one of those tools. It would be penny-wise and pound foolish to build a smaller facility which might well need to be replaced in ten or twenty years because it had become too small or inadequate to be functional.

We must plan to allow for the changes time will inevitably bring. The current proposal allows for expansion to accommodate changes and to provide a useable building life of 30-40 years (in practicality, it will probably be even longer).

If $62 Million sounds too costly, then consider whether the price of one movie ticket a month, or one glass of beer or one latte a week (and that is for just one year) is worth more than the security and safety our police department provides to our City.

Do we really want to keep our police force working in outmoded and severely cramped quarters for that long? Or, shall we move the Department into leased and unsecured premises while we continue to fight about the size and cost? We should pass this bond measure now.

People can make excuses for anything, that’s why they are called “excuses.” There is no excuse for failing to support the Police Facility Bond measure in May.

Kasia Quillinan, CityWatch Chair, on behalf of Salem CityWatch


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