UPDATE | Bainbridge council leans toward Harrison property for new public safety building

UPDATE | Bainbridge council leans toward Harrison property for new public safety building

City officials have been looking at the potential purchase of the Harrison Bainbridge Urgent Care building as a new home for the Bainbridge Island Police Department.

The building at 8804 Madison Avenue North is owned by CHI Franciscan Health and joins a short list of just two properties under consideration by the city of Bainbridge Island as a location for a new public safety building. The existing medical office building was constructed in 2014 and has 17,548 square feet of space.

Bainbridge Island City Council members were briefed on the potential sites during their study session Tuesday, and most of the council found the suggestion of moving Bainbridge police and its municipal court into the Harrison facility appealing.

Bainbridge has been seeking a new location for a new public safety building since September 2017, after attempts to buy the Coultas property on NE New Brooklyn Road fell through following the death of the landowner.

Retrofitting Harrison’s Bainbridge facility for use as a combined police station/municipal court, however, comes with a hefty price tag.

Coates Design Architects, the city’s consultants on the new police station, have estimated that it will cost $15.8 million to turn the medical office building into a police station/court.

That estimate includes a two-story addition for a court building at a potential cost of $4.6 million, as well as $1 million for below-grade parking.

Total project costs — not including acquisition — is estimated at $25.6 million.

The 3.02-acre site was purchased by CHI Franciscan Health in August 2013 for $1.75 million.

City officials said they received an unsolicited offer from CHI several months ago that suggested a potential retrofit of the building, and city consultants have since conducted site investigations, project scoping and cost estimates on such an effort.

The other potential site for a new public safety building is also adjacent to Highway 305, and is known as the Yaquina site. The property lies between NE Yaquina Avenue and Madison Avenue North.

Construction and project costs for the Yaquina site are higher than the Harrison center estimates, according to the city’s consultants.

Building a combined police station/municipal court on the Yaquina property is estimated at $21.7 million, with total project costs expected to be $34 million — not including land-acquisition costs.

The estimates are not set in stone, Deputy City Manager Morgan Smith told the council. The cost of the city’s new public safety facility will hinge on what officials eventually decide to build.

“Those estimates do not reflect project cost,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that’s what we need to build.”

Actual costs will depend on the features of the approved design, including things such as different finishes and technology, as well as the choice on management of the project, and other factors.

Consultants noted that the Yaquina site would be a good fit for both a police station and courthouse, and construction could be limited to a one-level facility.

The Harrison site also earned a thumb’s up in terms of location, but consultants said the property needs a secondary emergency access point, and added that a seismic upgrade would require a complete demolition of the interior of the building and roof.

The police station and courthouse would also be split between two floors, and the size of the property is too small for a gun range.

When asked for his opinion, Police Chief Matthew Hamner said he preferred to move into an existing building rather than deal with the unknowns of developing on raw land.

“I think the Harrison site would serve us better,” Hamner told the city council Tuesday. “That would be my strong preference.”

“We could make that function,” he said.

Of the two locations, most on the council said they preferred the Harrison site, as well.

“I’m ready to move forward on Harrison,” said Councilwoman Sarah Blossom.

Like others, however, she expressed concerns about the new estimates for the project.

“Either way, the cost is too much,” she said.

Councilman Joe Deets and Councilwoman Rasham Nassar also favored the Harrison location, while Councilman Mike Scott preferred the Yaquina property.

Until a preferred location is selected, however, city staff noted not much more could be done.

“We can’t move further on this project until we select a site,” Smith said.

It is also without question that a new police station is needed to replace the deficient one downtown.

“Our need is pretty clear. Replacing the police station is not an option at this point…it’s a requirement. But it’s a requirement that were prepared for and ready for,” Smith said, adding that the city stands ready to cover debt financing for the project once it’s underway.

Time is also running out on the city’s leased space in Rolling Bay for its municipal court.

Smith noted the municipal court doesn’t meet current standards for security and layout, and the property itself was ripe for redevelopment in the foreseeable future.

“Our current court facility is not sustainable,” she told the council.

Council members did not pick a preferred location this week, but agreed to finalize a choice after getting public input on the two sites at their March 20 council meeting.

The potential cost of a new police station to replace the badly aging facility on Winslow Way has been steadily climbing in recent years.

In 2014, the city estimated the cost for a new building at $10.1 million.

The following year, the city put a $15 million bond request on the ballot for a new police station, proposed for just north of city hall. That proposition received a landslide rejection by voters, however, in November 2015.

At Tuesday’s meeting, consultant Matthew Coates of Coates Design Architects said that sticker shock over the new estimates was understandable.

But constructing a police station, he added, results in greater costs due to higher code standards, security demands, the need for redundant systems and other factors.

“This is not a normal building,” Coates said.

He also noted that the $15 million figure used during the 2015 bond campaign was not a valid estimate for the total price tag of a new public safety building.

It was not done by a professional cost estimator, Coates said, and it had millions of dollars of exclusions.

“It never was realistic the day it was presented,” he said.

Smith agreed, and admitted the city did not do a good job of explaining that the $15 million bond request for a new police station in 2015 was part of a financing package included other funding sources.

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