09-30 HR Council, police facility, columbia lot.jpg

Fifth and Columbia lot, owned by the city, is the likely location of a new police facility and parking structure, possibly with Hood River County participation. The site is also home to events including Farmers Market and, shown, Hood River Hops Fest (canceled for 2020).                                                                                          

Hood River City Council was scheduled to consider in its Monday meeting whether to take the next step in developing a new police facility — and possibly a joint facility for city police and Hood River County Sheriff.

What council was set to look at was two paths forward: A city-only police station and parking lot or a joint city-county facility, both located on the Columbia Street lot. Both models would require construction of a parking garage — likely the police facility on the west side of the lot and parking to the east.

The project would require voter-approved bond approval, and the city is targeting a ballot request for 2021, with the idea of putting the project into place in 2022. Assuming voter approval, completion of any facility is likely at least three years away.

Columbia lot is located between Fifth and Sixth streets, across from Full Sail Brewery and Hood River Cinemas.

“We need a preliminary design and get a solid cost estimate to bring to voters,” said Assistant City Manager Will Norris in an interview Friday.

The council met after press deadline; see details online and in the Oct. 7 edition for details on any council decision.

“What we’re asking is to do a solicitation that asks firms to bid on both projects so if county wants to chip in we’ll be ready to go,” Norris said.

“I think we’re (the city) ready to move, but the council may want more information,” Norris said.

He also briefed the County Board of Commissioners on the project in their work session Sept. 21.

Norris said Monday’s action would be to get council permission to put out a request for architectural firms to prepare two designs and cost estimates: One for the city facility and one for the joint project.

The two paths would be looked at concurrently, and “path two is contingent on county funding their share of joint police sheriff and courthouse,” Norris said.

He added that “the exciting piece that has developed in past few weeks is Columbia Gorge Children’s Advocacy Center (CGCAC) has expressed interest in going in on the project, contributing funding, which would have a whole lot of benefits.” Norris said CGCAC would need 4,000 square feet.

“It would really enhance the services we do, with more space and it would make it more comfortable for the families we serve,” said CGCAC Executive Director Beatriz Lynch. Located on Woods Court on the Heights, CGCAC currently has 1,300 feet of office-interview space.

“We would absolutely be able to use extra space for office space and interview rooms; we’re part of the child abuse investigation team, and right now we have one small interview room, which is fine but it would be good to have one more,” Lynch said. “We would be able to add a second one and tailor them to children of different ages. It would give us a permanent home, as we are currently renting and the building is for sale.” Lynch said going in with the city and/or county “is a good partnership because one of the community partners we work with is law enforcement, also in terms of security you can’t get much more secure than being part of the police facility.”

In any city-county project, “the big element is marrying space needs,” Norris said.

Separately, the city would need a 13,000-square-foot project and the county 56.000, but architects will determine ways to reduce the overall square-foot total by designing it with joint uses of space.

Norris said the architect study will consider the multiple needs, combine into single space needs analysis and look at consolidating shared spaces.

“It’s a look at what we can jointly use and get better efficiencies out of, and we will take the space program and test it on different sites and do a preliminary cost estimation,” Norris said.

The city started a police facility study in 2018 and presented the findings to council last month. The Columbia lot was the top-rated site out of seven studied  inside city limits.

In the Sept. 22 board meeting, commissioners indicated support for looking at a potential shared facility, with caution over sharing the cost and extending county residents’ tax commitment for a facility located in the city.

Norris said Friday, “I heard, and confirmed with the city administrator (Rachael Fuller) uniform positive reaction to exploring this. Everyone in concept likes the idea. We need to get into the details and no decisions can be made until we get proposals, In concept, both city and county want to use dollars to space where possible.”

Asked how soon the city would need formal commitment from the county, Norris said no timeline is in place. 

“They can’t do that until we get architects’ costs ... then we would know if the county is in or out at that price point,” he said.

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