Police station bond passes

City officers will gain a new workplace after an $11.6 million bond proposal passed comfortably.

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WALLA WALLA -- The city is getting a new police station.

Preliminary election results released Tuesday night show 62.3 percent of voters approving Proposition 1, an $11.6 million bond proposal that will build a new police station at Second Avenue and Moore Street.

The new, 28,000-square-foot facility will replace the current 9,000-square-foot headquarters, which has been in the basement of City Hall at 15 N. Third Ave. for 101 years.

With an estimated 210 ballots on hand yet to be processed, 6,270 people had voted on the proposition, with 3,907 in favor and 2,363 against.

To pass, the project needed at least 40 percent of the people who voted in the November 2008 general election; and of those votes, 60 percent needed to vote yes.

Walla Walla County Auditor Karen Martin said those thresholds translated to 4,818 votes overall and 2,891 in favor. Just over 12,000 city residents voted in last year's general election.

At the election office Tuesday night, Police Department employees and their supporters were grateful for the outcome.

Police Chief Chuck Fulton said he had arrived at the election's office with no expectations, but took the positive outcome as a reflection of the community's strong support for his agency.

"I've always had the privilege of having the community be very supportive of us through the years," Fulton said. "This is just an affirmation of that support."

The department can now move forward with designing and building its new home, he said.

"Now we have a lot of work to do," Fulton said.

The project is going to cost about 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $86 a year for a home assessed at $200,000. Initial estimates show the project costing about $11.4 million, with $11.6 million being the maximum residents would pay.

The project will be paid over 20 years, and Fulton has pledged to return any money to the taxpayers should the project come in under costs.

Outside, enjoying the moment with other police department employees, Captain Terry Heisey echoed Fulton's remarks.

"I think everybody recognized the need," Heisey said.

In a 2007 survey of the community conducted by the Union-Bulletin that included about 1,300 respondents, participants chose building a new police station as the third most pressing community need.

MORE TO COUNT
At the close of polling Tuesday, voter turnout was about 37 percent of Walla Walla County's 31,704 registered voters, said County Auditor Karen Martin. A total of 19,656 ballots remained out today.

Besides 210 ballots that could not be processed Tuesday, ballots mailed near the deadline have not yet arrived and have yet to be counted. The next ballot count will be Friday. Results should be posted on the county's Web site, tinyurl.com/lj94sz, by about 4:30 p.m. that day.

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