A new downtown police station could cost about $20 million — $8 million more than earlier estimates — based on a study presented to the Medford City Council Thursday.
While there are no definite plans yet to seek voter approval, the preferred site for the three-story, 42,000-square-foot station would be on a city-owned lot at the corner of Ivy and 10th streets. The site is across from City Hall and immediately south of Medford's former post office.
Medford police Chief Tim George told the council the police force has outgrown what was supposed to be a temporary 15,000-square-foot station located on the bottom floor of City Hall in 1967.
"It's a very dysfunctional building for public safety," George said.
"This City Hall was not designed to be a police department."
Violent criminals are escorted past employees and witnesses, he said. The lack of space makes it difficult to interview informants about criminal investigations, or to talk to family members who might be willing to disclose information about crimes. A walkway that is open to the public separates both sides of the police station.
In 2012, the police proposed building a $12 million, 35,000-square-foot police station to be financed by a voter-approved bond measure. The council wanted more information to bolster the case for a new station.
For the past year, Group MacKenzie, a Portland-based design firm, has analyzed the future needs of the police department for the next 20 years.
"It's bigger," George said. "It's designed for future growth."
The station also would require additional parking in the downtown, according to the Group MacKenzie study, which cost $37,000.
Based on the study, the cost range for the station would be $18.5 million to $23.5 million. The amount varies because of different parking options and high and low bid estimates.
The new police station building alone could range from $10 million to $11.6 million, but parking could cost between $5.6 million and $8.5 million, depending on the option chosen and whether the cost estimate comes in on the high side.
The study discounted other possible sites for the police station because of location and land constraints. Also, the other lots are not owned by the city.
George said it's important to have the station close to the courts, other city buildings as well as the new county health center, which will be built on the former site of the post office.
He said the Jackson County Sheriff's Office encountered "unintended consequences" when it moved to Crater Lake Highway near Vilas Road, miles from the courts, the jail and other services.
That move also has affected Medford police, George said. For instance, sex offenders have been registering with the city police since the sheriff moved his department.
By building the police station next to City Hall, officers would be within walking distance of the criminal justice building on 10th Street or the new health services building, he said.
A three-story, secured parking garage could be built next to the police station with 223 spaces. Currently Medford police park vehicles on the street or in unsecured parking areas.
The cost estimate for the parking garage ranges from $5.6 million to $6.5 million.
The city also could consider the option of adding a seventh story on a six-story parking garage being built by Jackson County as part of a new health services building. The cost of the extra story, which would provide 72 unsecured parking spaces, is estimated at $1.8 million. That would provide additional parking to offset spaces lost by construction of the new police station, which would occupy a site now used as a parking lot.
The county is expected to begin construction of the parking garage this year, meaning the city will have to reach a decision relatively quickly. The county would want an up-front payment of $75,000 from the city to cover design work on the extra floor.
Councilors questioned how the city would pay for that extra floor in the parking structure, which will be built before a bond measure could be voted on.
Councilor Al Densmore said he might consider providing some kind of loan that would be paid off by the police department over time. Densmore said it's a "nonstarter" for him to consider spending $1.8 million from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency.
Other options for parking include creating a surface parking lot at the corner of 10th Street and Oakdale Avenue, near City Hall. The surface parking lots would cost $650,000 to $750,000.
The proposals are part of the preliminary planning, and George said the council still has a long way to go before it would consider putting a bond measure before voters.
Councilor John Michaels said he was concerned about growth beyond the 20-year timeline for the police station.
"I'd like to see the cost of adding a floor," he said.
George said that by the time Medford reaches a population of 150,000, the police department would likely want to create precinct stations outside of downtown to allow quicker responses in other parts of the city.
The council agreed it would meet again to discuss possible options for financing an additional story on the county's planned parking structure.
Mayor Gary Wheeler had a different concern about adding a floor to the county structure. He said he worried that too many tall buildings might create a less appealing downtown.
"Seven stories is a big building," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email email@example.com.