Several renovations are finally coming to Kent Police Headquarters after voters turned down a property tax hike in 2014 that would have raised $34 million to build a new facility at the current site.
The Kent City Council unanimously approved a $636,000 bid on Oct. 5 for renovations and additions to the facility, 232 Fourth Ave. S., just south of City Hall. The council also approved Oct. 19 an $121,900 bid to expand the police department’s offices for detectives at the city’s Centennial Center, just east of City Hall.
“I’d be the first to say that a new HQ is something we certainly have a need for, but amongst the multitude of priorities the city is facing, it certainly is not the top priority,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said in an Oct. 29 email. “In the interim we are doing all we can to update and maximize the space we have now.”
The improvements at headquarters are an addition to the staff breakroom, including an exterior covered (patio) meeting space; conversion of the existing men’s locker room into a training room; relocation of the locker room to the existing second-floor storage room; and the addition of three new showers in the men’s restroom, according to city documents.
The current station was remodeled in 1991 to handle about 75 or so officers. It was built in 1973 and initially served as the Kent Library. The council has authorized 160 officers and that is expected to increase to 165 next year with adoption of the 2022 budget adjustment later this month.
Padilla said the car-per-officer program has helped with the space shortage as officers are allowed to take the vehicles home and basically work from the vehicles as a remote office.
“It’s not the ultimate solution, but it is helping us manage work space now,” Padilla said.
City Council members Bill Boyce and Zandria Michaud recently toured the police station to observe the working conditions.
“It’s a much needed area for officers to have an expanded breakroom and a facility where they can work out,” Boyce said at the Oct. 5 council meeting. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
“It’s much better use of the space for sure,” she said.
Padilla said he didn’t have a start of construction date yet, but he’s looking forward to the change.
“These improvements help us better use the space we have now, but we continue to need more space and updates of our facility,” he said.
A training room will provide a big change.
“I’m excited to get the training room completed,” Padilla said. “Right now we do not have designated training location at HQ and the installment of this room will allow us to ramp up the frequency and efficiency of delivering certain hands-on training for the officers.”
The improvements for detectives at the Centennial Center will include demolition of existing walls to create more space, construction of a new wall and new flooring and paint.
“The renovation in the Centennial building will bring much needed office workspace for our detectives unit,” Padilla said. “When completed, it will allow us to consolidate the investigative work groups that should be housed together and it allows us to eventually grow the number of detectives we have.”
Tumwater-based Christensen Inc. General Contractor, had the lowest bid for both projects. The council in August 2020 approved a $192,974 contract with Seattle-based Studio Meng Strazzara Inc. to design the Kent Police headquarters project, boosting the total amount of renovation work to nearly $1 million.
The city will pay for the work from its capital resources fund.
Previous police chiefs Ken Thomas, Steve Strachan and Ed Crawford each tried to get a new headquarters built. A few studies were done, but the only measure referred to voters was in 2014. That proposition needed 60% approval but only received 53.8%.
After that measure failed, the council spent $205,464 on consultants for a City Hall remodel study from 2015 to 2017 that included moving the Council Chambers to the city’s Centennial Center as well as renovations and expansion of the police station. But the council dropped those plans because of anticipated costs and other budget issues. Seattle-based ARC Architects estimated the remodel would cost $33 million. City leaders never came up with a plan about how to fund the remodel.
In 2019, the council approved a $7,500 contract with Seattle-based Broderick Architects to help design the renovation of Council Chambers at City Hall. A $162,000 renovation of the chambers was completed in 2019 with new seating and carpet. Crews also replaced the worn and missing sound panels behind the dais, and updated the dais and podium with modern finishes.
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