The Police Department needs about double the space to function properly, Police Chief Greg Wilson told the City Hall Advisory Committee during its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23.
The approximately 7,000 square-foot building that currently houses the Police Department was built in 1991.
“We filled up all of the available office space in 1991,” Asst. Chief Pete Caw said. He was working for the department before and during the move.
Since then, Caw said, the Department has outgrown the space, even though staffing levels haven’t increased much.
“The complexity of the profession has changed,” he said.
Wilson estimates the Police Department would need about 13,000 square feet to serve as an effective space for its 38 employees.
For example, records and evidence handling and holding cell guidelines have changed in such a way that the Department has had to use some spaces for their unintended purposes. What was once a second public restroom accessible from the lobby is now a records room and doubles as a nursing mother’s room. The second holding cell has been converted into an armory, as it does not have running water for a toilet or sink, which are required.
Closet spaces have become offices.
“We have used this amount of space to its maximum,” Wilson said.
There is only one conference room, which often doubles as an interview room or court area for civil hearings. The room can get crowded very fast, and it is not wired for cameras. A second interview room is wired for cameras, but the door doesn’t lock and the room has false ceilings.
“We need to be concerned for the safety and welfare of our staff,” Wilson said.
Right now, the Mountlake Terrace Police Department does not have the machines necessary to process someone who is arrested for DUI. That means they need to go to another jurisdiction, usually Lynnwood or Snohomish County, to process them. That takes an officer away from Mountlake Terrace, which is typically about one-third of the city’s street coverage — a typical shift will include one sergeant and two officers.
DUI arrests typically happen about three to six times a week, Caw said.
The lobby lacks privacy for people coming in for services, Wilson said. There is also not enough wall space to display awards or recognition the Department and its members have received.
The south and west sides of the building also run along wooded areas of Veteran’s Park. All blinds in the windows on that side of the building are kept closed for privacy and security reasons.
That side of the building is also covered in mold, Wilson said, and offices on that side of the building get ants.
The HVAC system also doesn’t function properly, Wilson said. The roof leaks in spots during heavy rains.
These are all things Wilson hopes to be remedied in a new City Hall. He envisions a new Police Department embedded in the new City Hall, with the old Police Department building being used for records storage or other such use.
Ultimately, it will be up to the City Hall Advisory Committee whether or not the new City Hall will include a new Police Department at all.
After touring the Police Department, the City Hall Advisory Committee met briefly in the conference room to discuss future community input meetings. The Committee expects to hold several smaller neighborhood meetings in the coming weeks, though exact places, times and locations have not yet been determined. They also hope to hold about four larger community-wide open houses between now and June.
The public is also welcome to attend any City Hall Advisory Committee meeting and give input at the end, during the “public comment” section of the agenda. Comments will be limited to three minutes.
Community members can also give input at any time by emailing CityHall2017@ci.mlt.wa.us. Those emails will go to the entire committee and their contents may be discussed at future meetings. If your email is bounced back, call Virginia Olson at 425-744-6206. If she does not answer, leave a message letting her know your email address and that your email was bounced back.
The next meeting is scheduled for March 9 at 6:30 p.m.
–By Natalie Covate