It’s eastward ho for the city.
With the city of Bainbridge Island no longer expecting to build a new public safety building on NE New Brooklyn Road, city officials are now mostly eyeing a property to the east that was previously passed over as a potential location for the city’s future police station/municipal court project.
City officials announced earlier this month that the potential purchase of the 1.89-acre site property on NE New Brooklyn Road was no longer being considered. That’s because Tom Coultas Sr., the owner of the property, passed away in late March, and city officials said they recently heard from his survivors, who thought it was not a good time to move forward with the sale.
Now, the city is looking at a 2.04-acre residential property on Yaquina Avenue as the eventual location for a public safety facility. The property is adjacent to Highway 305, between Yaquina to the north and Madison Avenue to the south and east.
Bainbridge Police Chief Matthew Hamner said the new public safety building would benefit from easy access to Highway 305.
“I think there’s a reason that Fire Station 21 is located there,” Hamner said of the Bainbridge Island Fire Department’s headquarters station on the other side of the highway.
“That is one of the best locations to be,” Hamner said, noting the site’s central island location would be beneficial to police responding to emergencies, as well.
“It gives us quicker access to all points on the island,” he said.
Hamner said he was not daunted by the setback in obtaining the Coultas property.
“I think we’re still going to find a location,” Hamner said.
“Obviously, it’s something that needs to be done,” he said of the new facility. “This isn’t an optional item.”
Even so, getting a new home for the Bainbridge police department has proven elusive.
There’s been talk for years of a new building for the department, but voters rejected a $15 million bond measure to pay for a public safety center just north of city hall in November 2015.
That rejection prompted a search for a more suitable location, and until recently, the Coultas property was it.
City spokeswoman Kellie Stickney said the Yaquina location is one of the top options still being looked at by the city.
“We’re looking most closely at the Yaquina site currently. If we run into issues with our analysis of that site then, we’ll consider next steps,” Stickney said.
There may also be room on the Yaquina site for a police shooting range, something that was envisioned on the Coultas property.
“Out of the sites still being considered, we believe that the Yaquina site has the highest potential, and that there is adequate space at that location [for the gun range],” Stickney said.
How the city will eventually pay for the new public safety facility — estimated to run approximately $28.4 million, not including land-acquisition costs — is still up in the air.
City officials noted this week, however, that the sale of the existing police station property on Winslow Way would likely provide more than enough money than what is needed to buy land elsewhere for the new station.
That said, the city council has yet to finalize what it will spend on the project, and if it will indeed include a firing range for police, as well as where the money will come from.
At this week’s council meeting, city officials set out financing options that included using between $2 million to $6 million of the city’s general fund toward the project, and issuing bonds that would increase the city’s debt load by $22 million to $26 million.
That level of debt would add an additional $1.58 million to $1.87 million to the city’s annual debt service costs.
City Manager Doug Schulze told the council of informal talks he’s had about the potential of a lease-buy back arrangement that could potentially lower the cost of the new facility.
Under that arrangement, a private developer would build the police station and then lease it back to the city, with the city buying the property at the end of the lease.
The idea prompted preliminary interest from the council, which asked Schulze to conduct more research on the potential of a public-private partnership for completing the project.