Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect headline. The police station is in Arroyo Grande.
In the months after voters rejected a bond measure to fund a new police station in 2010, Arroyo Grande officials tried to make the officers’ current headquarters a little more livable.
They’ve repaired plumbing in the men’s restroom, addressed electrical issues, and fixed a host of water-related problems caused by a leaky roof including exterior stucco damage and damage to interior walls and ceiling.
But local officials say these upgrades don’t tackle the larger problem: Arroyo Grande police outgrew their station years ago.
“The existing facility has been outdated for about two decades,” said Bob Lund, a local resident and treasurer of a committee formed to promote the project. “For a crime-fighting force this is absolutely pathetic. It makes for poor morale and is not conducive to a well-functioning department.”
On June 5, local voters will consider a $6.7 million bond measure to fund construction of a new station at West Branch Street and Old Ranch Road.
The bond measure would pay for the bulk of the $8.3 million station, with some other money coming from a half-cent sales tax increase approved in 2006 and the sale of some property, including the current station site and three vacant residential lots on Old Ranch Road.
To avoid increasing property taxes, the city plans to obtain financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, refinance bonds issued in 2003 to expand the fire station, and use some local sales tax revenue to cover the balance of the bond payments.
For it to pass, two-thirds of Arroyo Grande voters must approve the bond measure — 66.67 percent. In 2010, a similar measure for a proposed station at West Branch Street and Rodeo Drive failed with 65 percent of the vote.
The city has spent $40,000 on a study examining the current facility and overall needs; $50,000 to analyze sites and designs of project alternatives; and about $190,000 on design services for the Rodeo Drive site, according to City Manager Steve Adams.
The city has spent only $10,000 on the existing proposal, and a majority of the work completed on the former site will be used in the new plan, he said.
Some of the money has come from local sales tax revenues. To date, the city has spent about $100,000 in local sales tax money on police station plans and currently has about $530,000 set aside.
City officials can’t promote the measure — they legally can’t use public funds or time to endorse a measure — but they have documented the department’s needs and offered tours of the existing station. More than 50 people have taken the city up on the tour offer, Adams said.
A new station would:
Expand the dispatch center.
Add an emergency operations center. Provide adequate space to store evidence and house computer equipment. Allow detainees to be unloaded in an appropriate “sally port” area.
Move three detectives out of their current workspace — a free FEMA trailer acquired in 2003.
City police have occupied the station at 200 N. Halcyon Road since 1973, when there were 12 full-time and six part-time employees. The police force has grown to 36 full-time and 15 part-time employees.
No opposing argument was submitted to the county and there’s no known formal opposition to the measure. However, a few residents have written letters to The Tribune stating the city should spend its money elsewhere.
“What is not safe in this city are the potholed streets and buckled sidewalks,” Jeff Horton wrote in a letter published last week. “If we cannot afford to fix that, maybe a handful of people for the state-of-the-art police station can go to the back of the line.”
The City Council identified a new station as one of the city’s top six priorities in a critical-needs action plan three years ago, Adams said.
More than $1.5 million will be spent this year and more than $1 million next year on streets, Adams said, “which demonstrates that this remains the city’s top priority despite operational budget challenges.”