West Richland voters will be asked in April to consider a $12.5 million bond to build a larger police station.
The bond would add 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to property taxes. That means owners of a $200,000 home would pay $84 a year.
The proposed 22,500-square-foot police building would have a secure armory and evidence room and a safer lobby for visitors and staff. There also would be more space for police and parole officers, who currently work four to a desk. Parole officers must now meet with offenders in hallways or parking lots due to lack of space at the current facility.
There also would be additional space for officer training, community meetings and an improved kennel for animal control, which community members have requested.
“Police departments are being closely scrutinized,” said police Chief Ben Majetich in a news release. “A larger, secure facility will improve policing services and reduce liability for taxpayers.”
The location for the station isn’t set in stone, but two properties are under consideration: a 2.5-acre Bureau of Land Management-owned lot just east of Bombing Range Road off Morab Street and a privately-owned, 2.5-acre lot off Mount Adams View Drive. Both properties are near the Benton Fire District 4 station on Bombing Range Road.
A four- to five-acre lot is recommended for the project, according to the Police Facility Assessment Committee’s report.
Land acquisition is in the preliminary stages and cannot move forward until after a successful bond vote.
Several issues would be resolved with a larger facility, according to the chief.
Problems with the current 3,000-square-foot police facility, which was built in 1976, were highlighted during a recent homicide investigation in the city. Officers tried to conduct interviews with the suspect in a secure space and process evidence without breaking the chain of custody.
“It was a nightmare. We were having to whisper so the suspect couldn’t hear us. At one point, we even thought that there might not be enough room to dry the evidence for processing,” Majetich said.
But, Majetich said, they were lucky there was one suspect in the case. There have been instances when multiple people have been arrested and held in administrative offices or forced to remain in patrol vehicles with an officer because of lack of space.
The West Richland City Council voted in December to place the bond issue before voters after more than a year of work. A group of West Richland citizens spent six months assessing the police facility’s needs and found the current station to be “wholly inadequate.” Its recommendations mirrored those of an architectural and engineering firm that developed the plans for a proposed new facility.
The city and police department also held multiple town hall meetings and public hearings.
“Policing is getting harder and we will rise to the challenge. Having an adequate, secure facility is just as important to public safety as police officers and patrol cars,” Majetich said.
West Richland has seen a 30 percent growth in its population since 2010, with about 15,300 currently living in city limits, according to a 2018 state estimate.
The bond requires 60 percent voter approval to pass. The special election is April 23.
More information about the project can be found online at westrichland.org/proposed-police-facility-information.
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