Seattle’s City Council must do more to reduce the cost of the North Precinct, which looks to be the most expensive precinct house in the country.
THE Seattle City Council should try harder to find a way to lower the outrageous cost of the North Precinct police station proposed by Mayor Ed Murray.
Small nips and tucks discussed this week do not make the cost reasonable. They lowered the estimated cost from $160 million to $149 million.
At $149 million, this still appears to be the most expensive police precinct in the United States. Its price tag is more than double that of an architectural showpiece precinct built recently in New York City, where construction costs are higher.
Council discussion about the project this week devolved into a snippy exchange about privilege and police conduct.
That distracted from the real issue the council is supposed to be addressing: how to get a better deal for the public on a project that was supposed to cost $88.5 million.
There is no question Seattle needs to replace its North Precinct. The current facility is inadequate and decrepit.
But Seattle must do a better job managing the cost of such projects, especially with looming budget challenges and a long list of unmet needs.
In response to concerns about North Precinct costs, Murray’s administration proposed reducing its parking garage by half and deferring some work. Shrinking the garage had a minor effect on cost but would significantly reduce the precinct’s utility.
If they approve a precinct that costs $60 million more than its originally proposed cost, councilmembers would be prioritizing showy design over other needs in the city, particularly in the north end.”
Deferring work could be false economy. As anyone who has remodeled knows, it can end up costing more to leave a project partly unfinished and resume work at a later date.
Councilmembers should not be swayed by these minor tweaks.
If they approve a precinct that costs $60 million more than its originally proposed cost, councilmembers would be prioritizing showy design over other needs in the city, particularly in the north end.
In that area, some children must walk to school in the street or tiptoe along the edge of ditches because the city has long said it cannot afford sidewalks. The 2015 Move Seattle levy funds only a portion of this overdue work.
If the city stuck to its budget on the North Precinct, it could use the $60-million difference to potentially pay for hundreds of blocks of sidewalks. Or that much money perhaps could fund the construction of five more libraries, community centers or pools. One can only imagine how many new parks and trails it would fund.
Spending $149 million on a precinct also undermines city officials’ insistence that they need special tax levies because they’re strapped by the 1-percent annual limit on the overall property-tax levy.
If money is so tight, Seattle should stick to the budget on projects like the North Precinct.
Otherwise, this much-needed building would stand as a monument to the city’s folly and fiscal mismanagement.