KALAMA — Woodland opened a 7,200-square foot police station in 2014. It cost the city $2.5 million.
Kalama wants to build a 4,000-square foot police station for roughly $3 million.
So it’s no surprise people want to know why Woodland could build a bigger station for less than the one proposed in Kalama. It’s the latest flare-up in the city’s controversy over where and how to build a new station.
City officials cite three factors to explain the discrepancy.
One, construction costs have risen sharply in the last several years, City Administrator Adam Smee said. JLL, a national real estate services firm, says office construction costs in the Portland area increased 18 percent between 2011 and late 2017. Most of that increase occurred between 2015 and 2016.
Two, Woodland’s station is a prefabricated building, which cost less. Former Kalama Chief Randy Gibson inquired with Woodland in September 2016 and at first considered a similar modular building. But the Kalama City Council rejected the idea of a prefab because “their life expectancy is not as long,” Smee said.
“We know from history in Kalama, we say the design life is 20 years and we use it for 30–50 years,” Smee said.
Smee said that the council did make compromises. “Usually public works buildings are full masonry and steel,” he said, “but because of cost limitations we (will have) have a wood-frame building.”
Three, smaller buildings typically cost more on a per-foot basis. Fixed costs shared by both stations have more impact in Kalama because the building is more than 3,000 square feet smaller.
The city is looking for a permanent home for its police force, which has been housed in the Kalama Community Building since the December 2015 flood walloped the police station and downtown area. However, voters in November decisively rejected a bond to build a new station at Maruhn Park.
Opponents have cited the cost and location as reasons for voting down the bond, which was small in comparison to the $63 million Kalama School District construction bond voters approved in February.
During a Feb. 27 workshop on police station financing options, several members of the public expressed frustration that they hadn’t seen “the numbers” behind the council’s decision. “I would love to see a side-by-side analysis of all these different locations. ... Show me with the money that we’re so apt to get, show me that (Maruhn Park) is our only option,” one woman said.
Smee said that early in the process he asked to do conceptual designs for up to three sites, but that the council said no when they learned that such a study would cost about $60,000.
Instead, the city evaluated potential sites based on whether they met criteria such as having enough secure parking space. Maruhn Park met those criteria and was less costly to develop than other sites, Smee said.
Moving the memorial and other features of Maruhn Park to a new site above the station is not included in the $3 million estimate. Smee said that the expense would come out of the park development fund and would be around $30,000.
Smee said he understands the sticker shock that some residents are feeling. Before moving into two temporary locations, Kalama police were housed in a small building behind Fire District Five, which Smee estimated was around 400 square feet.
“If that’s your point of reference, then I can understand, that’s a big jump,” he said. The proposed 4,000 square foot design, on the other hand, is meant to house a police force that will grow with the city over the next few decades.