The Santa Barbara City Council will consider Tuesday whether to ask voters for the millions of dollars needed to build a new police station.
The Figueroa Street building is more than 50 years old, and city staff going in for a renovation of the building’s locker rooms several years ago soon discovered the building had a number of structural deficiencies, including violations of seismic standards. About $50 million is needed for the rebuild, making it the biggest unfunded capital project on the city’s radar.
The council will hear a report Tuesday from a subcommittee on the rebuilding of the headquarters. The committee, made up of Councilmen Randy Rowse and Bendy White and Councilwoman Michael Self, was formed in March to look at funding options and next steps.
The city has identified $20 million in Redevelopment Agency funds for the rebuild, but would have to determine how to fund the rest of the cost. Placing a voter-approved financing mechanism on the November 2012 ballot will be up for discussion, but exactly what kind of financing tool to utilize would be decided at a later date.
If the City Council approves a ballot measure, it wouldn’t be the first time voters have been asked to fund police department improvements. A bond measure was put before voters in November 1999, but it failed because only 45 percent of voters supported it. The new measure would need two-thirds of voters to support it in order to go forward.
On the Santa Barbara County level, Sheriff Bill Brown tried to pitch voters on a half-cent sales tax to fund a new county jail, but the measure was resoundingly defeated by voters in November, despite widespread political support.
The expense to overhaul the police department facility also stems from the fact that it’s not just another building. It houses more than 200 officers, is open 24/7 and includes not only offices but a jail, a shooting range and a dispatch center for both fire and police calls. On top of the many functions the building serves, it also must meet a higher building code that schools and hospitals follow. In addition to seismic updates, the building needs to be brought up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and lead and asbestos are also an issue.
Though the building is safe now, asbestos would have to be contained as construction begins and walls are disrupted. Several areas are already sealed off and unusable because of the threat.
The site also has an issue with soil contamination as a result of spilled fuel, and the levels of contamination are 29,000 times the legal limit, according to Joshua Haggmark, principal civil engineer for the city, who met with city leaders in January to discuss the future of the building.
“If there was an easy solution, we would have done it already,” Haggmark said
Alternative sites also were discussed in January, as well as where the department could temporarily relocate, but the subcommittee has since decided that rebuilding on the existing site would make the most sense.
Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 2 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.