By Kellen Bulger
Back in Nov. 2016, voters in Salem voted down a proposed bond which would’ve allocated $82 million for the building of a new 148,000 square foot police facility north of downtown at the old O’Brien Auto Group site.
However, last May a new bond was to be voted on that would allocate $61.8 million for the new aforementioned police facility and this was approved. The city made headway on these plans when just over a week ago on Monday, Oct. 9 the O’Brien Auto Group lot was abought for $5.6 million.
The proposed police facility did not pass without controversy, as Brian Hines, a member of the Salem Can Do Better PAC, spoke in opposition at each ballot measure proposal. Hines cited the what he saw as wasteful spending by the city back in November of last year,
“Just as someone can be a strong supporter of our nation’s armed forces, yet oppose wasteful military spending, those of us who oppose the police facility bond measure admire Salem’s Police Department and Chief Moore, while disliking the extravagant $82 million plan being voted on this November,” Hines said. “The $82 million bond measure gives the Police Department much more than it requires for a perfectly adequate new police facility, which squeezes out money for other important unmet needs in this town.”
In spite of the strong opposition to the proposed legislation the plans will move forward, with the facility expecting to be finished by the fall of 2020.
Proponents of the new facility highlight the fact that the city of Salem’s 911 call-center currently works out of a leased building in another part of the city and that for a variety of reasons it would be ideal to have both our city’s police and its 911 call-center under the same roof.
TJ Sullivan, who is the Vice President of a business advocacy group within Salem argued, “The police officers want to see and be with the people they work with all day long -— for them it is a safety issue as much as it is a camaraderie issue,”
The current facility for the Salem Police Department is located at Salem City Hall in a two-floor, 28,000 square foot space, making the new facility more than five times larger than that of the existing one.
Housed next to the current police facility is the Salem Public Library, which has its own measure to to be voted on in a month’s time that would allocate $18.6 million for upgrades to the existing building.
Before the vote in May on the new police facility took place, Salem mayor Chuck Bennett and a supporting PAC raised upwards of $160,000 in contributions to back the measure. In the coming weeks, the city will almost certainly see if the support for upgrades to other similar pieces of local infrastructure by those in power will neighbor that of which we saw with the state of the art police facility.