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Monmouth Seeks New Home For Police

MONMOUTH -- Monmouth voters will soon decide if the police department will remain in its repurposed library or gain a new fortress-like facility.

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Monmouth Police Chief Darrell Tallan describes the cramped conditions in the current station's fingerprinting area.

MONMOUTH -- Monmouth voters will soon decide if the police department will remain in its repurposed library or gain a new fortress-like facility.

Measure 27-106, if approved May 21, would issue $4 million in general obligation bonds to finance the purchase and renovation of the vacant Forest Capital Building at Highway 99W and Church Street as the new location of the police department.

With the pending expiration of the current Monmouth library bond, the property tax rate would be $81 a year on a $180,000 house -- the average home price in Monmouth. This would be a net increase of $31 a year in city property taxes on a $180,000 home.

"The whole idea was to get this done, get it done right and do it once," Monmouth City Manager Scott McClure said. "It isn't like moving into a house, you can't just walk into the place."

The police department was moved into its current building, the old city library, around 19 years ago when the new library was constructed. No renovations were made to convert the library into a proper police department facility.

City officials note the lack of space, security and suspect holding cells as the major needs for a new location.

Residents have questioned the necessity for a new station largely because of the department's ability to work efficiently within the current building.

"I don't have a crystal ball to tell you that no other project is going to come up," Mayor John Oberst said. "The one thing I can tell you is the current police department building is broken and needs to be replaced."

McClure understands that with the housing market and construction industries on the rise, the project price could increase from current estimates.

"With the information we have now, absolutely, we can get it done for $4 million," McClure said. "We've hopefully got proper contingency built into it to be where we need to go."

The purchase price of the building itself would be $1.5 million. Construction costs, bond fees, design fees and contingency will make up the remaining $2.5 million.

Group Mackenzie, a Pacific Northwest design firm, was brought in by the city to determine a suitable replacement for the current police station. The firm found the city could save $1 million by renovating the Forest Capital building instead of constructing a brand new facility.

When the building was reconstructed -- the Earth Liberation Front destroyed it in an arson fire in 1999 -- heavily reinforced concrete was used to prevent further attacks. Other steps were also taken to further make the building earthquake resistant.

A public forum held Thursday at the Monmouth Public Library gave residents a chance to voice their opinions directly to public officials. Oberst presented background information on the project and answered questions from the audience.

Most in attendance favored the bond measure, a statistic known to the city after a public opinion poll conducted in January showed approximately 52 percent support.

Bob Lamb, a Monmouth resident of 12 years, questioned the value the voters would get out of the building.

"Our construction cost for housing here is $100 a square foot, plus or minus. This cost is still running about $400 a square foot," Lamb said. "Is the value there for the dollars spent?"

Other questions presented to the city largely involve the loss of tax revenue from the property.

Currently, the city receives $1,200 per year in property taxes from the Forest Capital Building. City officials say that if another parcel were bought and a new facility were built on it the city would also lose the taxes from that piece of land.

"There's a handful of folks out there, I don't know how organized, but they're kind of on the anti side," McClure said. "Frankly, they're all reasonable arguments."

The contract the city has with R.F. Wilson Trust, the building's current owner, stipulates that no sale will take place if the measure fails. The city has no contingency plan in place for the police department to either relocate or have their building renovated.

"The plan is at the moment, there is no backup plan," McClure said. "If this doesn't pass we're going to go 'Hmmm...'"

Yes or No?

* Measure 27-106 -- Shall the city of Monmouth issue $4 million in general obligation bonds to finance the purchase and renovation of a new Monmouth police station? If the bonds are approved, they will be payable from taxes on property or property ownership within the city. It is estimated the bonds would cost property owners 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value per year for no more than 25 years.

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