Plans for new Tacoma police station moving ahead

City Council members and citizens were updated on plans for building the Tacoma Police Department’s new headquarters at yesterday’s City Council study session.

Plans call for the new police facility to be constructed at the old Costco site near South 38th and Pine streets, as well as four substations in various Tacoma neighborhoods.

“It was a huge morale boost for the Tacoma Police Department,” Chief David Brame said, a reference to voters approving in February a ballot issue for the police facility projects.

Over 67 percent of those voting said yes to paying for the project through the issuance of up to $34.3 million worth of 20.5-year bonds financed by an annual excess property tax levy.

The new three-story, 73,000-plus-square-foot police headquarters itself will go up in what is now the parking lot area of the old Costco site.

“The Costco building will be broken into two halves,” explained Lt. James Howatson.

A renovated Costco warehouse will feature Fleet Services and storage for seized vehicles, as well as other support services such as forensics.

Howatson said having a place to store seized vehicles is something the department has never had before, describing it as “beyond our wildest dreams.”

The city plans to complete the warehouse renovation first and the headquarters and four substations during 2004.

The four substations are set to be located in Northeast Tacoma, Central Tacoma, the North End and the South End, with the city scouting possible locations.

Once the city selects some sites, there will be more public meetings – there have been several already on the subject of substation locations – where citizens can evaluate and rank the city’s choices, explained Howatson.

“We basically have $34.3 million to work with,” said Mark D’Andrea, of the city’s Public Works Construction division.

Of that money, about $4 million goes toward the substations.

Each substation costs about $1 million, of which about $600,000 accounted for by construction, and the remaining $400,000 going toward purchase of the property and soft costs.

City Treasurer Steve Marcotte provided some good news regarding financing of the project.

Standard and Poor’s has raised the city’s bond rating from A+ to AA-, he reported, which will lower interest cost for the city.

S&P cited the rise in assessed valuation of property, conservative fiscal policies and good financial performance as reasons for the upgrade.

“It means real savings in terms of interest costs, both in terms of this project and the convention center parking,” Marcotte said.

At the regular City Council meeting held later that day, the City Council reviewed an ordinance to sell $34.3 million of tax bonds to pay for the construction of the police headquarters and four neighborhood substations.

The city intends to sell the bonds through a competitive sale, which could produce proceeds as soon as June 4.

The City Council will take public comment on the proposed ordinance and expects to vote May 7 and will take comment and vote on a related resolution finalizing the sale May 21.