Puyallup’s five-story City Hall overlooking the library and Pioneer Park downtown won’t share space with the city police department or municipal court.
Consultants hired to study moving the police force or court into the roughly 40,000-square-foot building recommended against it at a City Council session Tuesday night. The consultant cited space, building code issues and the hefty expense of adapting the building.
Most of the seven-member council seemed convinced.
“I definitely think this report puts the nail in the coffin of moving the court or police into this building,” Councilman John Palmer said.
Instead, some council members indicated support for forming a task force to study a long-term solution: building a new public safety facility.
Council members also said they want to find other ways to fill up City Hall, which opened in 2008 at a cost of $38 million.
“We obviously have a lot of space that’s underutilized,” said Councilman Kent Boyle.
City Manager Ralph Dannenberg said he’s given City Hall staff until the end of June to shift around and free up at least one floor. A couple of public agencies have expressed interest in renting space, he said, declining to identify them.
In total, about 60 employees work in the building at 333 S. Meridian, including finance, legal and human resources staff. A privately operated sandwich shop and a yogurt business are on the first floor.
Some city leaders and residents have praised City Hall as a downtown centerpiece that’s contributed to revitalization.
For others, it’s an example of inefficiency and waste.
Deputy Mayor John Knutsen calls it “an albatross.” He still wants to see Puyallup police relocate to the building, a move that would open space for the municipal court at the current police headquarters on West Pioneer. The court is now in leased space on East Main. The city pays about $150,000 annually in rent and building operations.
Knutsen said he still believes there are ways to make the scenario work.
“It’s the most practical solution for the next 15 to 20 years,” he said. “I just don’t believe citizens are going to be prepared to pay for (something new).”
The police force occupies a building that dates to 1968 and includes the city jail and a Central Pierce Fire and Rescue station.
Mike Deal, a former City Council member who served during the time City Hall was conceived and constructed, said he and his colleagues knew the police headquarters eventually would have to be replaced. But police have special needs and requirements, and the council at the time envisioned the department eventually having its own space, he said.
As for City Hall, “We wanted to make sure we didn’t build a building and then in 20 years – because of growth in the city – have to add on to it,” Deal said. “... I think it will be borne out that it was a good time to build City Hall and we built the right City Hall.”
The idea to move police or court operations to the building has been around for months. Council members in February asked Dannenberg to study a possible relocation. He hired EHS Design in Seattle for about $15,000.
Last month, Mayor Rick Hansen asked the council to halt the consultant’s study and consider discussing a new public safety building. There wasn’t enough council support at that time.
But on Tuesday, the consultant presented its report saying City Hall was designed as office space and would require extensive modifications for police or a court. The cost for either department would exceed $4 million, the consultant estimated.
The report said there’s insufficient space to meet the department’s needs. One scenario had police spread out on the first, third and fourth floors and into a portion of the first-floor parking garage. Even then, there wouldn’t be room for the property storage/evidence/crime lab, the report said.