News

Police happy in new home

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

It took six months of planning, but last weekend Federal Way’s Police Department and Municipal Court moved into improved quarters at the new City Hall at 33325 Eighth Ave. S.

When the rest of city government joins them next month, it’ll be the first time in the eight-year history of the police and court that all city offices will be housed in the same building.

Deputy police chief Brian Wilson doesn’t conceal his excitement about the new facility, which he said is well-designed down to the electrical outlets.

“We’re very pleased with how, operationally, it meets our needs,” he said, listing amenities that include better placement of the various police divisions, safer prisoner handling, better security and a generator to power the whole building if the electricity fails.

Wilson praised the new lockers, which are larger and equipped with electrical outlets so officers can charge their radios and tazers, and he extolled the city employee who was out earlier this month numbering parking stalls. In a department of 90 vehicles, Wilson said, it can be a tedious waste of time to try to find a single car.

“It might seem like a minor thing, but someone might walk around 10 minutes before they find it,” he said. “The time it takes for staff to fiddle around with this, they could be out in the field.”

Planning and preparing for this move has been challenging, but assistant city manager Derek Matheson said personnel are working through the process.

“It’s difficult when the thing you need is in a box,” he said. “Everybody understands it wasn’t going to be easy before or after the move.”

The city purchased the building last year after Mark Clirehugh, vice president of commercial real estate firm GVA Kidder Mathews, offered an unsolicited deal the Council couldn’t pass up. After budgeting $24.5 million for a new municipal facility, Clirehugh presented the Paragon building for $7.5 million. Associated improvements and parking lot construction has leveled off at $16 million.

So far, construction is about $250,000 under budget and the city hasn’t dipped into the $640,000 project contingency fund.

In addition to orchestrating the timing of the move and a color coding system for the various departments’ work spaces and supplies, city staff had to plan details down to what furniture would go where in the new building. “We can’ t automatically move person X’s desk to person X’s office because the new office might be a different size,” Matheson said.

The city also had to sell surplus old furniture that won’t be going to the new City Hall when government offices move next month. Old cubicles make up the majority of the surplus furniture since city staff snatched up a deal on newer cubicles from a company that went out of business. Other items will be sold simply because they’re in bad shape. “In some cases, we have beat-up, rag-tag furniture we quickly put together when police and municipal court was formed,” Matheson said. Any money made from the sale of the furniture will be deposited into the general fund.

Next month, professional movers will take the furnishings and boxes packed by city employees — with the exception of police — to the new facility and place them where they belong based on the color coding system. City employees will unpack and put things away once they move into their new offices and work spaces.

Because the police department has sensitive materials, like ammunition, the movers couldn’t take the department’s supplies to the new City Hall last weekend. Police administrators assigned moving responsibilities to various officers months ago to cover different parts of the department. “That’s one of the benefits of a paramilitary organization,” Wilson said. Though police have vacated their old home on Ninth Avenue South, evidence will stay where it is until a new evidence room is built sometime next year.

Wilson said he expects the police department to “settle in pretty quick” after the move, even though there still will be construction on the second floor and the rest of the city won’t be moving in until August. “It’ll probably be a good six months before everything’s locked in,” he said, but added the individual departments will be up and running within a couple weeks.

The settling-in time isn’t expected to affect police operations or the number of officers out patrolling. “Staffing and coverage will be completely full,” he said. “That will be seamless.”

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