The recent effort by the City of Salem to explore conceptual plans for a new police facility has provided our community with a great opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. With almost forty public presentations already completed, a variety of views have been expressed. Those opposing the city’s plan focus on total cost and the location of the new police facility on the current civic center campus.
The decisions we make today regarding the seismic upgrades to the civic center, library, and the location of the police department are decisions our community will live with for decades. The purpose for building a new police facility is not because the location on the civic center campus is wrong; the current space no longer serves the needs of the police department or our growing community. The civic center is a well known location where almost all city services can be accessed. The Police Department is a major component of municipal government and has operated effectively working from this central location since 1972.
Making upgrades to the civic center so buildings can withstand an earthquake, improving public parking and access, and allowing for 40 more years of use of the library and civic center is a fiscally responsible approach. We can return operations currently located off-site back to the civic center complex saving more than $500,000 in annual lease costs. The proposed concept also resolves almost $16 million in previously deferred maintenance needs for the civic center complex. The new police facility would be constructed on property currently owned by the city, resulting in no privately owned property being removed from the tax rolls. Being fiscally responsible is something everyone expects from their government and this concept embodies that principle.
We are aware other cities have located their police departments away from their civic centers and we have also considered other sites. I believe the current site continues to be the best choice for the safety needs of our community and for the operational needs of the police department. Our central location allows officers to rapidly respond to all areas of the community. The Police Department provides safety and security for the civic center complex. When there is a disruptive person in municipal court, the Council Chambers or the library, or a public safety threat, an on-duty police officer can respond quickly from our current location.
We genuinely appreciate the support almost everyone has expressed regarding the need for a new police facility. We look forward to more discussion and council action to make it a reality.
Jerry Moore is the Chief of Police for the City of Salem. He is a lifelong Salem resident who has worked for the Salem Police Department for over 34 years.