With their dream spot for a shiny new police station tied up in another project, the Arroyo Grande City Council approved a plan on April 23 to repair their shabby, overcrowded digs and expand the parking lot.
“We’re making the best of a bad situation,” Mayor Tony Ferrera said. “This is essentially a Band-Aid. It’ll get us by, but that’s all.”
The repairs are estimated to cost $975,000 and will include improvements to the shower area, extra evidence storage, and the replacement of the building’s leaky roof. The City Council also approved the purchase of the adjacent VCA Animal Hospital Property for $325,000 with plans to convert the space to provide extra parking.
According to Police Chief Steve Annibali, the station’s current lot only has room for police vehicles, forcing employees to park their personal cars on the street.
The IBI Group received the contract for architectural consulting services, without the proposal ever going to bid. City Manager Steve Adams said the group was familiar with the police department’s needs and was the only group likely to win the contract anyway. Council members Caren Ray and Tim Brown opposed giving the group special treatment, but their votes weren’t enough to open the proposal process.
Including equipment, management, and temporary relocation costs, the project’s price tag is expected to come to $1.4 million. Most of the funding will come from the city’s local half-cent sales tax, but the city brought in $580,000 for the station by selling some of its land.
Tied to the station improvements was another dip into the half-cent sales tax fund. Citing increased crime due to the state effort to reduce the prison population, Annibali asked the city to re-fund a previously eliminated detective position. With the general fund strapped, the council reluctantly agreed to use the sales tax fund to shore up staffing, but they added language requiring that the city look for a more permanent funding source after a year.
The temporary fixes were passed with the hopes that the city’s financial outlook would soon improve and that the governor might sign a law currently working its way through the legislature that would reduce the approval threshold on specific-use bond measures from two-thirds to 55 percent.
Two attempts to pass bond measures to build a new station have failed, most recently in 2012. The measure received majority support, but failed to get over the two-thirds hurdle.