KALAMA, Wash. -- Police in Kalama say they’re in dire need of a new police station because their current location is inefficient and unsafe.
The police department's old station flooded in 2015, forcing the department into a small temporary spot in the Kalama Community Building. While a new station is planned, its fate rests with voters and a bond measure.
When entering the 800 square-foot temporary station in the community building, a small pet gate is notably visible. It’s the only thing dividing the department’s lobby from the office area.
“There is no separation between public and private areas,” said Kalama Police Chief Ralph Herrera. “Those are critical. It’s critical to employee safety, community safety.”
Past the pet gate is a metal bench in lieu of a proper holding cell for suspects. The bench is nearby the front desk, too.
“An arm’s length of my civilian police clerk. Completely unacceptable,” remarked Herrera.
People who have been arrested are brought in the front door and potentially past civilians filing reports.
While Kalama’s force is small, Herrera says the temporary station is incredibly cramped and lacks proper electrical capacity for the department’s needs. A box fan is used to cool computer servers in a corner of the office. Also notable, Herrera says that the area lacks a proper space to store and catalogue evidence. Proper handling of evidence can play a crucial role in criminal cases, Herrera says.
Relief could be on the way, though. In November, Kalama voters will be asked to approve a $2.2 million bond that would help finance the construction of a new police station. According to the city, the measure would cost an average homeowner a little under $150 a year. The station would be placed at the current site of Maruh Park, an aspect that not everyone in Kalama supports.
Kalama city leaders have said that placing the new station at Maruh Park was the cheapest option.
“It’s been an uphill battle,” Kalama city clerk and treasurer Coni McMaster said of the year and a half long planning process. She added that if the bond failed, the city would have to go back to the drawing board. “If [voters] can’t accept that, I don’t know what we’re going to be able to bring back to them.”
“Realistically, if it [doesn’t pass], the city has to make some tough decisions and figure out where we go to from here,” said Herrera. He added that he had faith in the community and that local support for police has always been strong.
Even if the bond fails, he and his officers will continue to report for duty.
“We swore to protect and defend our community. That will continue regardless. But it does make it difficult.”
The bond, labeled Proposition One on ballots, needs 60 percent of the vote to pass along with a voter turnout of at least 40 percent from the 2016 general election. If passed, the new station would be operational in August of 2018.