Finding a new home in a growing community

Despite new architectural designs, the hope of relocating Elma PD remains cloudy

It doesn’t take a fortune teller to see that the city of Elma is on the rise, population-wise. From the recently built Arby’s restaurant to plans of building a Grocery Outlet, new roundabouts to improve traffic flows and an expansion of Summit Pacific Medical Center set to be complete in 2025, the writing is clear as day. However, the same can’t be said, at this point, for one of Elma’s most vital resources – its police department.

Since 1985, the Elma Police Department has been operating out of a 1,500-square-foot building, deemed at the time of being a temporary setup. The building is condensed to the point that the lobby can only hold one person at a time for clerks to help and one of the main rooms serves as not only a break room, but a DUI processing station, fingerprint station and interviewing station.

“I’ve got staff that they want to go out and take a break, and on a regular basis, their break, they spend out in the parking lot in their car. It’s not right,” said Elma Chief of Police Susan Shultz.

The current police station has such little room that any evidence or files that date back more than two years must be transported by hand across an extremely uneven and pothole-riddled parking lot to the basement of Elma City Hall, exposing sensitive materials such as drugs and weapons to anyone within visual sight. According to Elma Police Department Clerk Dusty Miller, it is the only police station in Grays Harbor that stores evidence in a secured location outside of the original station.

While the present-day status of the Elma Police Department looks unsuited for a community that is expected to see a growth of more than 3% by 2025 according to Summit Pacific Medical Center, changes could be happening.

During the Monday, Jan. 23, city council work session, the first public visuals of an Elma police station remodel, in a new building acquired by the city, were shown to the public within the council chambers and those watching on Zoom.

Alan Gozart, of Harbor Architects, talked about what the new police station could look like in the 5,500-square-foot building located on West Young Street, including a bigger lobby, a dedicated training room, evidence storage, break room and interview rooms among other things

Despite the unveiling of the new design, it appears more discussions are needed to determine who will be using the building. Unphased by Gozart’s comments that police stations are built around security, multiple council members expressed a desire to have part of the building available as an open public venue for the community. Some, however, think Gozart has a point.

“I understand the want and outlook but like the architect expressed, police departments have to be built around security and you can’t have an open community venue inside a secured police department,” said Shultz. “It just wouldn’t be wise in the security sense.”

Shultz has been advocating for a new station for the latter part of two years. When the city purchased the West Young Street building around 18 months ago, she said she was okay with the idea of sharing the building with the courts, but when the courts expressed their desire to remain operating in its current spot, Shultz saw that the building should be used by the police department in full.

“Buildings like Elma Eagles and the Timberland Library have been used extensively for the public and they still are,” Shultz said. “Getting us into the new building would help us get established for a growing community and also allow the fire department to advance with their expansion plans.”

Shultz said that while finances will be the biggest obstacle to overcome in the pursuit of eventually relocating, she still hopes they can move into the new building by the end of this year despite, the cloudy future of who will be using the building. According to Gozart, the remodel is estimated at around $680,000 but that number can’t be set in stone until a bid is complete.

If the city were to get its wishes of using part of the building as a public venue, Gozart predicted that could cost an extra $75,000 due to the need of installing ADA-approved public restrooms.

Contact Reporter Allen Leister at 360-463-3572 or