The Puyallup City Council has made a significant step in the process of identifying a location and site design for a future justice center that would replace the ailing police department and jail along West Pioneer Avenue and the leased courthouse space on East Main.
During a study session July 9, the city council recommended the justice center project should be a top priority in the 2014 Capital Improvement Projects budget.
Bruce McKean, a lead architect for Helix Design, presented the initial programming and planning for the concept, pulled together during months of consulting with police, jail and courthouse staff members.
“We felt the current site where the police, jail and fire facility is currently makes sense with some additional properties,” McKean said. “We met with police, jail and court staff to really get a rough idea of what the space needs are. What we really found is the court facility is pretty adequate for the square footage, but the jail and police facilities are quite deficient.
McKean said the justice center proposes the vacation of a portion of West Meeker and 4th Street to the north in order to accommodate space for a secured parking area.
“The court facility would be co-located, rather than be a leased facility, and would allow for inmate transfer between those two functions,” he said. “To the west of the court would be general parking for the court facility, police department and jail.”
The proposed center would be twice the size of the current site downtown at 49,300 square feet. The original square footage is 24,800. More than 100 beds are proposed for the jail, double the original number.
Council member Kent Boyle questioned whether other sites had been considered. Mayor Rick Hansen said yes, including city-owned properties on South Hill, but staff members continued to recommend the downtown site as the best, most viable location.
“Where we are at this point in time is not site specific,” City Manager Bill McDonald said. “You can take the programming anywhere.”
Deputy Mayor John Knutsen discouraged any notion of leaving downtown for South Hill.
“I remember how fast we built the city after the last Lahar, so I’m not too worried about the next one,” Knutsen said. “To start abandoning downtown Puyallup could be financially catastrophic to the city.”
Within the site plan, parking needs were not identified. Council member John Hopkins wanted city staff members to perform an analysis.
Council member Tom Swanson wanted to learn more about alternative financing options for the center, and Boyle asked that other locations be vetted before the council makes a final decision on a site.
“It would be just nice to have some other options,” Boyle said.
And because it would be a public building, the city council asked that it come before voters. The cost to build the center is estimated to be $25 to $30 million. It would be built to last upwards of 20 years.
McDonald addressed the council requests, saying staff members would analyze parking, alternative financing and site locations.
The city council plans to discuss the proposed center in the near future as part of the 2014 budget hearings.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.