It’s no secret that the Selah Police Department is in desperate need of a new headquarters.
The department has been working out of a rented, retrofitted space on South First Street for the past 15 years, and city officials have come to the realization that it’s well past time to build something the Selah Police can call their own.
Over the past year, Chief Dan Christman has been working on a building committee with three City Council members and two community members, with the goal of presenting a bond measure to voters in late 2022.
The city hosted a community forum at the Civic Center on Dec. 2, along with Seattle architecture firm Mackenzie, to educate the public about the preliminary plans for a new law and justice center, slated to be built next to City Hall on West Naches Avenue.
The committee hasn’t yet agreed on a dollar amount for the “Safe and Secure Selah” project, but Councilman Roger Bell estimated that a roughly 20,000-square-foot facility would cost between $8 million and $15 million. The center also would include a courtroom, a jury room, a city council meeting room and private consultation space for attorneys.
“The City Council decided in January that a new police station should be our top priority over the next five years,” said Bell, who is joined on the building committee by fellow councilmen Mike Costello and Clifford Peterson, community members Lisa Gordon and Dick Graf, and Christman.
“Our city is growing every year, and we don’t want to fall behind on servicing the needs of our police department,” Bell added. “But the main reason we are moving forward with this proposal is that our current facilities are woefully inadequate. We need to build something now to meet the needs of today, but also to prepare for 30 or 40 years from now.”
The committee estimates that the city’s population of 8,500 — at its current growth rate of 2% — could double to about 17,000 residents over the next 30 years.
Bell and his colleagues understand that they may not be able to fulfill every item on the initial wish list. However, they hope voters will see the short- and long-term benefits of investing in such a crucial public safety project.
“We have gone through what the various bond amounts might cost taxpayers, and we feel like it will be fairly easy to sell at the lower range,” he said. “But we would like to do more, and that’s why we expanded the building committee and are seeking additional input from the community. We want to know what people like and don’t like about it. Then, we can decide what to include in our final proposal that will go before the voters next year.”
The committee will reconvene in January to discuss the most viable options before presenting a proposal to the full City Council in February. The council will likely pare down the proposal and then begin a formal campaign to receive buy-in from the public.
Mayor Sherry Raymond, City Administrator Joe Henne, Public Works Director Rocky Wallace and City Clerk Dale Novobielski also have been providing valuable input.
“I feel like the process has been going really well, and we are learning a lot,” Bell said. “Bringing in the two outside members (Gordon and Graf) has added a lot of value, and we have been having a lot of good conversations. We don’t always agree on everything, but I think that’s extremely healthy.”
Gordon, who joined the committee in May, also recognizes the need for a new police headquarters in Selah, and she appreciates being asked to participate in the discussions.
“The biggest thing for our community is that building a new police station would fill a huge need,” she said. “From the outside, the current station looks like a nice building. But when you learn more about the inside space, you realize that it’s really inadequate.”
Gordon added that a new station also makes financial sense over the long term. She pointed out that the city is currently paying rent on the building at 617 S. First St. while also covering the maintenance and upgrade costs.
She believes that, in the end, building a new law and justice center in Selah isn’t just a “want;” it’s a “need.”
“If you run the numbers, it doesn’t make sense to keep paying for someone else’s building,” Gordon said. “Yes, a new station would be a major investment. But we are looking at 40 or 50 years down the road, and we are going to need a city-owned facility. Selah is growing every year, and I believe we need something like this to keep our community safe, both now and in the future.”