Longview may soon use photo enforcement traffic ticket fines to pay for what the city considers a much-needed $1.3 million police station remodel, despite earlier promises that the fine money would be saved for traffic safety.
The Longview City Council on Thursday will consider changing an ordinance to allow using the public safety fund to renovate the main police station at 14th Avenue and Hudson Street.
In 2010 council members established the public safety fund, which currently contains about $2.4 million, all of it from photo enforcement tickets. The account was set up solely for traffic safety programs and improvements.
The ordinance Thursday would allow the city to tap the fund for “non-traffic safety programs, including law enforcement capital facilities and equipment and street maintenance-related equipment.”
City Manager Dave Campbell said the city needed to find a way to finance the police station project despite “pretty intentional decision-making” years ago that the fund only be used for the program and traffic safety purposes. The station renovation has been planned since Longview police moved into the building 17 years ago.
Councilman Mike Wallin said he supports the move. He said one of the city’s top priorities is to reduce crime. And for Longview police to be as effective as they can be, he said, they need the space.
“They’re on top of each other,” Wallin said Tuesday. “My hope is that people would understand that there is an urgent need.”
Councilman Chet Makinster in 2010 was a strong proponent of keeping the fund limited to traffic safety. He said Tuesday he’s worried that using the funds for the station renovation is a slippery slope.
“It was designed for the safety of our students and our people, and not a moneymaker,” Makinster said. “I’m concerned that once we open the door to the vault, then the next thing you know it’s all gone. ... Where do you draw the line?”
Initially, when the public safety fund was created, citizens were concerned it would become just another revenue stream.
If council members approve the change, the next step would be to finalize a design for the police station.
The City Council will also:
Hold a public hearing on allocating $156,000, which includes Cowlitz County funding, for affordable housing projects.
Consider a $136,600 contract to install a fully functional traffic signal at 15th Avenue and Mark Morris Court. The City Council approved the traffic light in October after much debate on whether students would respect the signal.
Vote on a staff recommendation to restore a fully operational traffic signal atthe intersection at 30th Avenue and Pacific Way. The staff also recommends installing left turn lanes on Pacific onto 30th Avenue and Glenwood Drive.
The council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Longview City Hall.