Cosmopolis mulls new municipal services building

The City of Cosmopolis has outgrown its municipal facilities, prompting Mayor Frank Chestnut and the City Council to look at solutions, anything from a brand new city hall and police station to adding on to existing facilities.

The city recently placed a flier in utility bills, outlining the need for expanded facilities and asking for public input.

A recent uptick in the economy has allowed the city to rebuild its police force, said Chestnut, which has outgrown its current “temporary” location.

“The Weyerhaeuser Foundation donated the modular building to the city when the mill closed down in 2006,” said Chestnut. “Believe me, we are grateful for that gift, but now the police department is growing and the building isn’t set up to function as a police station.”

Deputy Police Chief Heath Layman provided a quick tour of the existing police station – it doesn’t take long to go through the small space – and illustrated some of the inadequacies of it. First of all, the lobby isn’t much bigger than a phone booth and isn’t as secure as one would expect.

“There’s just the one entrance, through the lobby,” said Layman. “If there’s somebody there with their kid trying to pay a traffic fine or something and we have a person in custody, that’s not a good situation.”

The lobby is accessible by a flight of stairs. There is currently no handicap accessible entrance to the police station. The office as viewed through the glass is crammed with file cabinets full of overflow records.

Past the lobby is a small office, which serves as the interrogation room. It more closely resembles a dentist office waiting room than a place to grill suspects and is far from an ideal setting for interviews. To the right is Layman’s office which, like every other room in the building, is piled with equipment, supplies and more.

The evidence room is small and filled beyond capacity, so much so that boxes of evidence have had to be stored in other rooms, which are not as secure as the evidence room itself, which is accessible only to the evidence tech and police chief.

The back room serves as workspace for the officers and the computer network hub, as well as an evidence processing room. There is no proper ventilation, so when things like latent print examinations are done the fingerprint powder coats every surface of the room, said Layman. Adjacent to this room, which used to serve as the courtroom, is a small locker area, which was actually installed by the officers themselves. Layman said he’s fortunate to have the officers and reserve officers he has; they are a resilient bunch who get a lot done on their own. There is no adequate holding cell.

“There are no showers or decontamination facilities here,” he said. He recalled a recent scene where an officer was quite literally soaked with an accident victim’s blood. He had to go to the fire hall next door to clean himself up.

The fire station, the most modern of the three city buildings, has had to take on a lot of additional uses as the city hall building – which used to be a bank – was outgrown. Chestnut doesn’t have an office. As for records storage in the old bank building, Chestnut said it’s “out of the question.” There simply isn’t room. The fire station now houses court proceedings and city council meetings. Like the police department, Fire Chief David Dutton and his crew – all volunteers – have learned to adapt.

Chestnut said the city is in decent enough financial shape to take on a new city hall facility, with appropriate space and facilities for the court, police and municipal activity. He stressed that the city had just presented its proposal to Cosi citizens.

“We are barely scratching the surface of this effort,” he said. “It will take several years from the beginning of the trek” to see any results.

City Administrator Darrin Raines said, for the moment, “Our job is to get the information out why we need this. Now the city is starting to save money, unlike three years ago. And it would really simplify things to house all the facilities under one roof instead of spread out over three buildings.”

Reaction to the proposal has been mixed, but Chestnut is confident citizens will recognize the need and support the proposal.

“Given straightforward information, the folks here have always made the right decision,” he said.

Financing could potentially come for the United States Department of Agriculture or another lender with general obligation bonds, said Raines. If the decision is to build a new structure, which is the most cost-effective option that would achieve all the goals the city is looking for, it would likely be built on the vacant grassy field to the south of the current police station.

The first round of public comment runs through to the next city council meeting, May 16. Proposal details can be found at cosmopoliswa.gov and comments can be dropped off at city hall, 1300 1st St., left through the city’s Facebook page or sent via email to draines@cosmopoliswa.gov.