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Eugene pursues new police station.

Byline: Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

Eugene city councilors took their first action Wednesday toward a likely bond measure to pay for all or part of a new police headquarters, three years after voters twice rejected similar tax measures.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council directed staff to develop preliminary plans and financing options for a new police station.

The city's objective is to get the police department out of a 40-year-old City Hall that is considered vulnerable to collapse in an earthquake. Police are cramped in their main-floor offices and already have taken over all available space in the City Hall basement. Work began this week on a new building to house three small units that currently work in offices below the parking garage.

"We've had some wonderful people on our police force stuffed in a dungeon," Councilor Gary Pape said. "There are probably better cells over at the Lane County Jail."

The most recent cost estimate for a three-story, 92,500-square-foot building - perhaps on a half-block parking lot across Eighth Avenue from City Hall - is $33.76 million.

A memo that served as a starting point for Wednesday's council discussion suggests paying for such a building with a $26.7 million bond measure, $5.85 million from the city's facility reserve fund and a total of $1.2 million the city has received from a pair of recent real estate transactions.

But councilors asked the city's facilities and financial staffs to cast a wider net, looking at possibilities including partial funding from the expansion of an urban renewal district, combining the new police station with a new City Hall and exploring a partnership with Lane County for a shared public safety building.

The issue is likely to be batted back and forth between the council and staff for much of the next year, with final action expected by next September on a bond measure to be decided in the November 2004 general election.

Eugene voters rejected a pair of bond measures in 2000 that would have paid for new police headquarters. The first, a $36.6 million proposal that would have paid for police and fire stations, was defeated at the polls by an 8 percent margin. The second, a $25.1 million measure that would have paid for a combined police and public works facility, failed by 24 percentage points.

"I look at it and I have to ask, `What has changed?' ' said Councilor David Kelly, who, like several of his colleagues, was supportive of the concept but skeptical of its chances.

"I just don't want to go out to the voters and lose," he said. "That kind of gets to be a perpetual kind of mind-set."

Councilor Bonny Bettman, a strong backer of police programs, said she has already done some "casual polling" of constituents in her ward south of downtown, and they have generally backed recent bond measures for library and fire station construction projects.

"The people I talked to have been very supportive of those things in the past, and they are tentative about this," said Bettman, who suggested reducing the amount of a bond request by tapping urban renewal district funding. She also liked the idea of a combined new police and City Hall building, but was not enthusiastic about a potential partnership with the county or any other branch of local government.

"I don't think I'd be supportive of combining resources with other jurisdictions," Bettman said. "It seems like when we do that, we wind up paying for the biggest portion."
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Title Annotation:Councilors, hoping to get the department out of a 40-year-old City Hall, direct staff members to explore financing options; Government
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 30, 2003
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