Arroyo Grande still detecting a site for police station

Arroyo Grande city leaders are pushing ahead with plans for a new police station, but the exact location won’t be determined for a few more months.

The city’s plans come about six months after the failure of a $6.7 million bond measure that would have paid for a new station at West Branch Street and Old Ranch Road.

The City Council voted 3-2 last week to move forward on a strategy that would put the new station in that same location — though doing so is contingent upon whether plans for a large recreation center move ahead.

Council members Caren Ray and Jim Guthrie dissented, preferring instead to have city staff research remodeling and expanding or replacing the current station on North Halcyon Road, which is projected to cost less and could face fewer hurdles than the West Branch Street location.

City officials have long held that the station on North Halcyon Road is rundown and inadequate for the department staff, which has nearly tripled since the police force moved into it in 1973.

City leaders have twice put measures before local voters to raise money for a new station. Despite efforts to persuade residents of the need, they’ve been unable to garner a two-thirds majority vote to approve funding for a new one.

The most recent attempt, a $6.7 million bond measure, received only 61 percent of the vote. It would have allowed the city to build a new station at West Branch Street and Old Ranch Road with an expanded dispatch center, an emergency operations center and adequate space to store evidence and house computer equipment.

In the meantime, the 5 Cities Community Service Foundation still hopes to build a more than 53,000-square-foot recreation center on the West Branch Street site, and the City Council has approved a lease and development agreement for it to do so.

But foundation members need to raise an estimated $13 million to $14 million for the center. So far, they’ve raised about $1.7 million and have an additional $3 million in pledges, said foundation President J Johnson.

Foundation members have asked the city to give them until March to decide whether they can raise enough money to build on West Branch, or whether they’ll pursue other locations instead.

While foundation members continue fundraising efforts, city staff will start the process to sell three vacant residential lots on Old Ranch Road. The money would help pay for a new police station on West Branch Street, which is estimated to cost about $5.7 million.

Though at the same location, the station would cost less than the previous estimate for several reasons, and allow the city to move forward without seeking another bond measure, said City Manager Steve Adams.

Those factors include a revised design that is expected to reduce the cost, lower interest rates, and the potential sale of additional city property.

However, remodeling the station at the existing location is estimated to cost less, about $4.5 million.

Ray said that’s part of the reason she preferred that alternative.

“I’m not against West Branch but more for saving the $1.2 million right now,” she said.