Council agrees, advances on aspects of future police station

Memberd of the Homer City Council were able to come to some consensus on certain aspects of the planned future police station.

They decided in a work session facilitated by Pastor Lisa Talbott of the Homer United Methodist Church on Monday at the Harbor Master’s Office to officially go with the Waddell site as the location of the station. The site is located at the intersection of Heath Street and Grubstake Avenue and is owned by the city.

The other option on the table was the Homer Education and Recreation Center, which council members had previously suggested renovating to fit the station’s needs and making it a shared facility. During the session, council members pointed to several drawbacks of the HERC site, such as the costs of demolition, the age and deterioration of the infrastructure and that locating a police station there could interfere with the ability to hold recreation activities in the same building.

“If we’re talking about the police station, you look at what they have for critical space needs,” said council member Heath Smith. “We know that what’s existing in the HERC can only be used for nonessential. So, you have a gym, you have storage. … And there’s a great deal of space there, it comes at cheap per square foot cost, but it doesn’t really get us anything when it comes to the overall huge needs that are needed in a new police station.”

The pros of the Waddell site discussed by the council are that it’s city owned, that it’s “virgin land,” that it’s centrally located in town and that a station could be built there without impacting city recreation needs.

One aspect of the Waddell site discussed at some length was its elevation in relation to the city’s tsunami zone. Police Chief Mark Robl explained that, at 60 feet above sea level, the site is still 20 feet higher than the inundation zone, which sits at 40 feet above sea level.

A drawback to the Waddell site is that it offers less space than the HERC would. The capacity for future expansion is important when it comes to the police station, said council member Donna Aderhold.

“That lot just seems really small to me,” she said. “And there’s no place to go. It’s constrained on all sides, and so I just want to make sure from our city staff here that this site would work for a police station for, you know, any expansion that might be needed over, I don’t know how many years.”

The next unanimous decision the council made is that they would like the future police station to have a daylight basement. The Waddell site is not completely flat, and Public Works Director Carey Meyer said during the work session that a daylight basement would allow the station to be built up and out.

After the daylight basement, the council prioritized the need for a sally port — a secure prisoner drop-off area — followed by a separate cell for female prisoners. Fourth on the list of priorities was heated vehicle evidence processing, followed by a heated police vehicle garage, an emergency operations center and finally evidence storage space.

Where the council could not agree, however, was whether it would be best to pay for a full, unfinished daylight basement, or a finished half basement. Meyer said a half basement alone should be more than enough room to house evidence storage and evidence processing.

Finally, the council directed city staff to work with a figure of $7.5 million. Staff will take that number and reconfigure aspects of the police station plan to see what value the city would be able to get for that amount. The addition of the daylight basement took the project past its original estimated cost of about $6 million.

Aderhold and council member Rachel Lord both objected to the notion of picking a number and having the city tailor the police station to it. Lord said that while she is appreciative of the cost, the council still needs to be smart in how it crafts the station.

“We’re working with building our police station. And part of our income as a city, as a municipality, is our property taxes and our sales taxes, and those things are coming from people who are living here. And they’re living here and they’re safe. … There’s return on having an adequate public safety police station and making smart decisions that are based on all the things that are coming in.”

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