Editorial: A yes vote on AG bond makes sense for safety

On June 8, voters in Arroyo Grande will be asked to authorize building a new police station by approving a $6 million bond measure.

It may seem counterintuitive to expect voters to approve a bond in this rotten economy — even for a project as badly needed as a new police station. Yet we believe it makes good financial sense to proceed now, when low interest rates are available and construction costs are down.

We strongly urge Arroyo Grande residents to vote yes on Measure A-10 to finance construction of a $6.2 million police station near St. Patrick’s School.

Simply put, this project can’t be put off much longer; the existing station is cramped, outdated and in disrepair. Also, there is no room to expand at the current location at 200 N. Halcyon Road.

Another reason to move forward: The city has devised a relatively painless way to finance the new station. Rather than raising taxes, the city proposes extending the period of time it will take to pay off an existing debt that voters authorized in 2002, to fund expansion of the fire station.

Property owners have been paying about $8 per $100,000 of assessed value — roughly $40 per year for a $500,000 home — to pay off that debt. If Measure A-10 passes, they will continue to pay that same amount, but instead of retiring the debt 12 years from now, they’ll commit to paying for 30 years.

That’s still a bargain, especially when you consider that for a small annual investment, the city will gain an up-to-date police station with almost twice the space of the current building.Cramped doesn’t begin to describe conditions inside the current station, which was acquired from a phone company in 1973.

Space is at such a premium that the chief’s restroom has to double as a storage room; computer equipment is housed in a closet and has to be cooled down with fans; and detectives are housed in a trailer next door to the station.

The property storage area is so cramped that some items have to be stored at other locations — which can make it difficult when members of the public come in to claim property cleared for release.

And it isn’t just day-to-day operations that are affected. City officials have concerns about their ability to coordinate operations in the event of a major emergency, since the department lacks a room large enough to serve as an emergency operations center.

The Fire Department does have a room large enough to fill the bill, but it’s located in a designated flood plain.

Clearly, the city needs a new station — but is now the right time?

We believe it is.

Here is why it makes sense to move forward now, rather than waiting for the economy to fully recover.

Due to the slowdown in the building industry, bids on public works project are more competitive than they’ve been in years.

The city can take advantage of some U.S. Department of Agriculture financing available at a low interest rate of 4 percent.

The land is available at little cost. The county is willing to trade the parcel — which it has no plans to use — in exchange for various concessions, including the city’s agreement to take over maintenance of some county-owned property in South County.

That particular site also makes sense because it’s centrally located.

We especially like the fact that there is enough room to expand in the future — which will be a big plus should two or more South County cities ever decide to consolidate their police operations into a single department.

Measure A-10 requires a two-thirds “supermajority” to pass. That’s not going to be easy, but we believe there is both a compelling need for this project, and good reasons why now is the time to act. Vote yes on Measure A-10.