State of Arroyo Grande police station shows need for new one

Arroyo Grande City Councilman Tim Brown didn’t mince words when he called the city’s old police station “a dump.” That may be an overly harsh assessment, but we agree that a new station is long overdue.

For that reason, we applaud the City Council’s decision to put a $6.7 million bond measure on the June 5 ballot to fund a new station. We strongly urge voters to approve it.

Yes, this remains a dicey time to ask voters to approve any sort of tax or assessment, and this measure is especially challenging because it requires a two-thirds “super majority” to pass.

But the same reasons for passage that we cited two years ago, when a similar measure failed by just 89 votes, remain valid today. If anything, there is more urgency now because the building has deteriorated even more. For one thing, it has sprung even more leaks, not just in the roof, but also in the walls.

On top of that, the department has simply outgrown the Halcyon Road building it took over from a phone company in 1973. Detectives are housed in a trailer; the chief’s restroom doubles as a storage room; and computer equipment is stored in a closet and has to be cooled down with fans.

And here’s the biggest rub: The parcel’s not large enough to allow for much expansion.

What’s more, it would cost almost as much to upgrade and remodel as it would to build from scratch. And with limited room on the site, what’s the point?

In the long run, it makes far more sense to build a new facility where there’s room for growth. That’s why we believe the city’s selection of a parcel at West Branch Street and Old Ranch Road, near the Arroyo Grande Women’s Club, is ideal. The city already owns the property; it’s centrally located; and it’s a larger site so there’s more room for future development. That’s going to be especially important should the cities of Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach ever fully consolidate their police operations.

If anything, this site is an even better choice than the county-owned parcel near St. Patrick’s School that had been the proposed location two years ago. And not only does the plan make sense logistically, it’s a good deal for taxpayers.

The financial plan is essentially the same as two years ago: The city is proposing to extend by 30 years the assessment rate set by a fire bond measure passed by voters in 2002. Property owners have been paying $8.17 per $100,000 of assessed value —about $41 per year for a $500,000 home. If the bond measure passes, they will continue to pay that amount, but instead of retiring the debt 10 years from now, they’ll commit to paying for 30 years.

So here’s the bottom line: For about $40 per year — give or take, depending on the value of a home — Arroyo Grande voters can be assured that they’ll have a police station capable of serving the city far into the future.

Will that be enough to persuade two-thirds of the city’s voters to approve the measure? We hope so, though City Councilwoman Caren Ray has what may be an even more convincing argument. She’s sure that if voters could see the place for themselves, they would approve a bond measure for a new station “in a heartbeat.”

With that in mind, we urge the city to invite as many citizens as possible to tour the police station, between now and the June 5 election, so they can judge the need for themselves.

Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.