Three proposals were shown to county council this week, with price tags from $31 million to nearly $60 million
CLARK COUNTY — The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a forever home. Or at least a space they can call their own.
“Currently we’re all over the county,” says Chief Criminal Deputy John Chapman. “We have the major crime unit and a traffic unit and a DV (domestic violence) unit up above the ME’s (medical examiner’s) office. We have our marine unit and others out at the shops in a makeshift trailer. We have people, and equipment, and vehicles spread all over the county.”
Until last year, the department’s central precinct was housed in an old 1970’s office building in Brush Prairie. It was closed after the department determined maintaining the building wasn’t in their budget.
“We had bathrooms that had 24 inch doors that could hardly fit the equipment that we walked into,” Chapman told the Clark County Council at a work session this week. “We had an upstairs loft that we went to that the Fire Marshal said we could only take nine people up to. We had a lobby that held one person, so if somebody came and was being serviced by our desk deputy or one of our service technicians, the next person, we asked them to wait outside so we could at least have some privacy while we talked to them.”
After that building was closed, departments were divided between space at the jail in downtown Vancouver, and the west precinct, which shares space with three fire districts in a building near the Clark County Fairgrounds.
Chapman says they’ve been able to use one parking bay for some equipment, but a lot of gear is still left in outside lots scattered around the county.
“We have over a million dollars of equipment,” he says. “We have boats, we have armored vehicles, we have an evidence truck, we have trailers, we have all kinds of things that we’re trying to keep out of the weather.”
To do that, the sheriff’s office says it needs a brand new building, ideally in the central part of the county. Right now they’re eyeing spaces along SR-503, just south of the city of Battle Ground. Chapman says that location should be able to fulfill their needs for at least the next thirty years.
But it’s also likely to cost tens of millions of dollars the county doesn’t currently have.
The sheriff’s office did get funding to hire architectural and design firm Mackenzie for $22,000 to put together three options for the county to consider.
Option A would be a 45,550 square foot building on 2.7 acres. It would house a community room, classroom, patrol operations, special events, investigations, special operations and support functions, and cost an estimated $31 million.
Option B would need 64,758 square feet and 3.1 acres. It would add a sheriff headquarters and administration, information technology, human resources, finance, risk management and records, along with an additional $12 million to the price tag.
Option C would top out at around $57 million dollars, require over 104,000 square feet and 4.3 acres, but add room for all sheriff’s office operations, outside of the jail, including their logistics and evidence personnel.
“If they needed to move, we need about 40,000 square feet for what they do,” said Chapman. “So that dramatically increases the size of the property we need and then, of course, correspondingly the cost goes up.”
None of the building estimates included the cost of land acquisition.
Also adding to the cost is the fact this new building would be considered an “essential” structure.
“Essential facility is a building that’s been designed to higher standards,” said Jeff Humphreys, a principal with Mackenzie, “with the intent that, if there was a disaster, whether it was an earthquake, or a flood, or snow loading, it has a higher resilience to be able to withstand those forces than a commercial structure would be.”
Humphreys told the council the Essential designation adds about 10 percent to the cost of the structure over a similarly-sized commercial building, but would increase the strength of the building by about 1.5 times.
A county commission is currently doing a deep dive into the future of the jail building, which is considered overcrowded and obsolete. By the end of the year that commission is expected to recommend referring a bond to the voters to help pay for the updated jail. County chair Marc Boldt said it’s possible the cost of a new central precinct could be added to that bond.
Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins admitted that whatever the jail committee ultimately proposes will likely have an impact on how they move forward with the central precinct proposal.
“Certainly, this then needs to be plugged in and say ‘if you do that, then you’re going to trigger this,’” Atkins said. “Reality is, this has been put off so long, everything’s coming to a head at once. Which may be better for the long run.”