City Council Makes New Police Complex 'No. 1 Project'

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Plans for a new police station complex costing $48 million have moved ahead despite worries that the project may reduce funding for Glendale's much-touted capital improvement program.

The City Council gave the green light Tuesday night for City Manager David Ramsay to hire architects to design the three-building, 168,000-square-foot complex, which will be three times the size of the existing station at Wilson Avenue and Isabel Street. The 35-year-old building, overcrowded and riddled with structural and technical problems, would be replaced by a state-of-the-art facility, according to the police.

Council members also unanimously expressed support for a plan to pay directly for the new building, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the decade, rather than seek a voter-approved bond issue or other form of debt. The council has already set aside $21 million for the station, but other capital improvement projects over the next five years may be postponed to ensure that the station is completed, officials said.

"What we are saying here in terms of capital improvements is that for the next five years, this is our No. 1 project," said Ramsay, who advised the council not to take on debt to build the station. "It is not exclusive, but it should be our top priority."

Several residents expressed support for building a new station but urged the city not to deplete the capital improvement budget, which pays for street maintenance, sidewalk upgrades and other projects to maintain and upgrade public facilities. Former council candidate John Beach drew support from several citizens when he suggested levying a 1-cent-per-kilowatt-hour charge on electricity bills during the next five years, saying it could raise about $9 million a year. Ultimately, that idea was rejected by the council.

Several designs have been proposed for the project, but the most popular includes a new operations building on Isabel Street, just north of City Hall, plus a combined jail and 400-space parking structure across the street on a parcel that the city is negotiating to purchase. In addition, the current police station would be refurbished and converted to a combined community recreation center and police records storage facility.

Police Chief James Anthony said the old building was designed for a force half the size of the department's 350 members. In addition, the Glendale jail no longer meets state standards for detention facilities, he said.

One point of contention is the proposed parking structure, which would include a security area for officers' personal vehicles. Council members said they are willing to reconsider that element of the plan to bring costs down. Former council member Ginger Bremberg called it "the very last thing" that should be funded.

"I don't know how many police officers have been accosted while walking to their cars, but I know an awful lot of ordinary folks have," she said.

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