Residents speak out on plans to expand North Park police station

NORTH LOGAN — The City Council held a public hearing to get input on proposed options for a new police station Wednesday. The cost of the proposed plans ranges from $1.41-1.76 million.

Three possible locations for the police building were discussed: near the library, near the planned City Center and in a converted retail building on Main Street. The council took no action regarding the project on Wednesday.

Police Chief Kim Hawkes gave a short presentation on the need for a new building. The police force currently works from the basement of the fire department. That arrangement worked well in the beginning, but the growth of both departments has increased the need for a new building, Hawkes said. At the time the police department moved in to the building, North Logan had four full-time officers and one part-time officer, Hawkes said. Currently, the department has nine sworn officers, six reserves, a secretary and an animal control officer. The fire department also has a need for more space, he said.

“The fire department is at a critical junction where they need to take the next step in really raising their level of service to North Logan city,” Hawkes said, “in really reducing their response times, which means having firefighters that can be there in the fire department on a 24-hour basis.”

The current plan is to fund the project partly through $600,000 set aside in the general fund. The remainder could be borrowed from the water fund. Mayor Lloyd Berentzen said he favors the latter option, and would like to have the money paid back by January 2014.

North Logan resident Alan Collins said he didn’t believe borrowing money from the water fund was straightforward. “If it’s needed for the water system, why would we borrow it for another purpose? On the other hand, if it’s not really needed for the water system, then why are we overcharging ourselves for our water?”

Collins said he believed borrowing from the fund was a way for the council to fund the project without the approval of voters.

“If we really need a police station, let’s fund it honestly,” Collins said. “Ask the people to fund it, and then go get your bond, or your loan.”

Berentzen said the use of the water fund wasn’t to hide the cost of the police building, but rather to avoid the need to bond for the money.

“I am not OK with bonding for this building,” Berentzen said. “I think it’s a mistake. I think we should be trying to do it within our existing resources.”

Berentzen said the surplus in the water fund is needed because extensive maintenance and upgrades on the water system are expected in the future. If the city chooses to borrow from the water fund to help pay for the police station, the money should be repaid before the maintenance is necessary, he said.

Councilman Damon Cann and Councilman John Bailey each expressed concerns about the cost of the project.

“I’m strongly supportive of the police having a new facility,” Cann said. “On that (cost) dimension, I’m not sure I’m really sure I’m happy with any of the three options.”

Bailey said he wondered whether $180 per square foot is really what the building should cost in the current economy.

Building official Ross Lapray said he would not recommend saving money on the building if it meant lower quality. Lapray said he worked on the fire station as a volunteer in the fire department.

“I’m the poor guy that built the one that they’re in right now,” Lapray said. “It was on a shoestring budget at the time, and one could argue whether it was adequate the day we moved in.” Lapray said he would rather pay $180 per square foot for a building that will last than to pay $140 per square foot and be forced to rebuild it later.

“Give the professionals the chance to tell you what is necessary,” Lapray said. “It will cost more than you want it to, and it will cost more than I want it to, but it is necessary in my eyes.”

In other business, the council amended the storm water ordinance to adopt a system of escalating enforcement provisions. Under the new guidelines, if a business or a construction project is found to be in violation of storm water policy, city officials will first give a verbal warning. If the issue isn’t resolved, the offending parties will be asked to halt operations, then given a written warning, and finally a citation. The amendment passed unanimously.

The council also approved a modification to the development for the Wildercrest Subdivision. The modification allows the developer to complete sidewalks in segments as lots are sold instead of all at once.

Published in cooperation with the Hard News Cafe. Original story is here.