Puyallup’s downtown police headquarters building is so crowded, Puyallup Police Chief Bryan Jeter says half seriously, “that even the rats have moved out.”
The ’60s-vintage building, remodeled more than two decades ago, is so inadequate at meeting the growing East Pierce County city’s law enforcement needs that closets and restrooms have been pressed into service as offices. The only interview room sits astride a public corridor, and the parking lot is not large enough to handle all of the 57-officer department’s vehicles.
The structure doesn’t meet modern safety standards, said the police chief, and its location on East Pioneer is potentially in the path of floods, volcanic mud flows and catastrophic train derailments.
Puyallup Mayor John Hopkins agrees.
“The best remodeling we could do with that building is with a bulldozer,” said the mayor.
Replacing the police headquarters with a larger and more modern justice center building has been the topic of discussion for several years, but until two weeks ago, the replacement project didn’t have much momentum.
The best remodeling we could do with that building is with a bulldozer.
Puyallup Mayor John Hopkins
That changed late last month when the Puyallup City Council voted unanimously to purchase a three-acre site in the city’s South Hill neighborhood as the site of a new building. That land was part of the triangular site, north of 39th Avenue Southeast and east of Fifth Street Southeast, that was acquired about a year ago by Central Pierce Fire & Rescue. The fire district provides fire protection services for Puyallup and several nearby cities.
Central Pierce is planning to build a fire station on the western two acres of the five-acre site that will combine the equipment and crew from two existing stations that are inadequate to properly serve the area, said Guy Overby, Central Pierce assistant chief. The land the fire district is selling to Puyallup was excess to the fire district’s needs. The tract was the site of a former Lumbermen’s lumber yard.
Puyallup officials said the city looked at a handful of potential locations for the justice center building, including the former Lowe’s Home Center site on South Hill, but that site was too large and too expensive. The city will pay the fire district some $2.18 million for the land over three years, starting with a $1 million payment this year.
The land acquisition decision started serious planning discussions by council members and city staffers about what the justice center should house.
In addition to the Police Department headquarters, the building could potentially contain the Puyallup jail and the city’s municipal court. The Puyallup jail, a 52-bed facility, is the only jail in East Pierce County. It serves Puyallup and the cities of Sumner, Bonney Lake and Milton and the state Department of Corrections under contract.
The municipal court now operates in a leased building on East Main Street in Puyallup. While some arraignments are conducted via a video link, in-person defendant appearances in court necessitate the department transporting prisoners to court from jail. A court on the jail site would cut those transportation needs.
Hopkins said the upcoming discussions will likely include consideration of whether the city should continue operating a jail and whether other cities might consolidate their justice system activities with Puyallup’s for efficiency.
The new justice center will include tighter security provisions to protect the Police Department from terrorist attacks. The present building was designed and built in a kinder, gentler era.
The new justice center will include tighter security provisions to protect the Police Department from terrorist attacks.
Both Jeter and Hopkins said moving justice functions to the South Hill area likely won’t leave the downtown area without police resources. A downtown satellite precinct could remain.
Voters might have to authorize bonds to finance construction of a new justice center, Hopkins said.
The existing police station could be sold for commercial development or could become the site of a transit garage to serve Sounder commuters.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663