King County District Court, South Division, Auburn Courthouse is located in the City of Auburn at 340 E. Main St. in the Auburn Justice Center. This facility provides court services for the cities of Auburn and Covington. File photo

King County District Court, South Division, Auburn Courthouse is located in the City of Auburn at 340 E. Main St. in the Auburn Justice Center. This facility provides court services for the cities of Auburn and Covington. File photo

Auburn ponders states of its aging public facilities

Consultant offers multiple recommendations.

In 2019, the city of Auburn commissioned a consultant to determine whether existing city-owned buildings are meeting today’s needs, and if so, could they handle the added demand as the city’s population and associated city resources increase.

On April 12, the consultant, Seattle-based Makers Architecture and Urban Design, returned with the finalized Facility Needs Study and Master Plan.

According to the study, at the Auburn Justice Center on East Main Street, command staff, investigators, the records team and patrol officers are short on desk and office space. The police armory and evidence storage, locker rooms, and the courtrooms, which process more than 100,000 cases annually, are likewise inadequate.

Seismic upgrades over the years have done their bit to reduce the amount of usable space, and there is not enough parking.

Cramped is perhaps the kindest thing the report could say about Auburn’s public works maintenance and operations facility on C Street Southwest and, across town, its parks maintenance and operations facility. There are portable buildings scattered about, not enough shop and warehouse space, and limited covered space to keep all that motorized and spendy stuff in good working order.

Makers Principal Julie Bassuk and consultant Beth Batchelder presented council with recommendations, alternatives and cost estimates, all important given the city’s well known financial issues.

Here are the recommendations:

• Merely renovating the police station is not a 50-year solution.

• The plan recommends first building an evidence storage facility on new property near Les Gove and to renovate the present justice police station, at an estimated cost of $10 million.

• In the long term, the plan recommends constructing a main police headquarters on a purchased site for an estimated $48 million, to be timed as funding allows.

• Funding source would be bonds

For maintenance and operations the plan recommends:

• A $24 million investment in M&O headquarters.

• Parks M&O needs to be on the northeast end of the city to support parks as they develop, so the plan recommends investing $6 million in Parks M&O satellites at Game Farm Park and the future Jacobsen Tree farm on Lea Hill.

• Develop parks satellites at Game Farm Park and Jacobsen Tree Farm as funds become available.

• GSA Park: Relocate greenhouse and bulk bins to access 15th Street Southwest, add storage and renovate crew space, cost included in M&O estimate.

• Funding source: Bonds, general fund, utility impact fees, equipment rental funds.

The study finds the need for administrative buildings less pressing than police and M&O, and recommends the city invest as needed at City Hall and the City Hall Annex to extend their service lives, then revisit the issues again in 15 years.

The master plan process began in July 2019 with a focus on maintenance and operations facilities for public works, parks and Justice Center, which houses the Auburn Police Department and King County District Court — areas where an existing need can already be seen.

The needs assessment included interviews with staff regarding facility issues and challenges, industry-best practices and the anticipated impacts of the city’s projected growth. Site tours were also conducted to assess the condition and function of the facilities.

Using a projected 20 percent growth rate based on similar growth estimates from the city’s comprehensive plan, the study found that some facilities would be operating with as much as a 67 percent deficiency of space by 2023, and that the public works facility, in particular, was already facing a 60 percent shortfall in needed square footage.

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