City buys land for police station

"The police are moving northwest, and the courts southwest, someday to meet.The Bainbridge Island City Council Thursday approved purchase of a 15-acre parcel at Sportsman Club and New Brooklyn roads, for the future construction of a new police station and municipal court building.Purchase price was $495,000, which city Administrator Lynn Nordby said was far less than other properties under consideration.We were looking at two- and three- and five-acre parcels for the same kind of money, Nordby said.I'm thrilled with it, said City Councilman Norm Wooldridge, who led an ad hoc citizen group that looked at a half-dozen sites for the facility. I think we got a good deal here, and I hope the community feels likewise.The property sits at the southeast corner of the Sportsman Club/New Brooklyn intersection, immediately west of the school district's bus barn facility.While city officials were looking for a parcel of more modest scale - three to five acres, to house a facility projected to be about 12,000 square feet - they jumped at the chance to pick up the 15-acre Suzuki property when it went on the market in January. The deal closed this week with council approval.We spent about 10 percent more than we wanted, Nordby said, and got 300 percent more to work with.Siting of a joint police/court facility was discussed throughout the last decade, as city officials and various advisory committees looked at the long-term space needs of local public agencies.When most city departments moved into the new hall on Madison Avenue, the police department was left behind, while the municipal court remains in leased space at Rolling Bay.In its recent search for a new site, Wooldridge's ad hoc group ruled out the downtown core because of access, traffic and parking concerns. Several other parcels in the New Brooklyn Road area were considered, but the committee found prohibitive land costs or owners simply unwilling to sell.The Suzuki property - reportedly held in common ownership by a group of sisters who live in the Los Angeles area - came onto the market abruptly, attracting the interest of the school district and several private developers before the city's successful purchase.While the site is seen as advantageous for police because of its quick access to the highway and island arterials, Bainbridge Police Chief Bill Cooper said the impact of school-related traffic would have to be looked at.It makes us a little more centrally located, Cooper said Friday. It does make us a little more difficult to find, but over time it'll be a good site.The purchase announcement comes as the police department readies itself to spread out into the old city hall building on Olympic Drive.A $200,000 renovation of that building is nearly complete, with the department expected to stay put for up to a decade.City officials said they want to be ready to vacate the old hall building, should the state Department of Transportation ever pursue intersection widening at Highway 305 and Olympic Drive. Such improvements likely would involve condemnation of the building, Nordby said.Most of the purchase price for the Suzuki property was already earmarked in this year's budget, city officials said.Nordby said the council is unlikely to begin considering facility design for three to five years.(And) in my experience with public agencies, 'three to five' years usually translates to 'seven to 10' years, Nordby said.It was the city's second significant land purchase this year. In January, the city purchased four upland acres and eight acres of tide flat at the head of the bay, to be preserved as open space.Cost of that property was $195,000."

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