Lynnwood City Council reviews plans to fund Community Justice Center

Digital 3D rendering the future Community Justice Center (Images via Mackenzie)

Before voting to approve funding for the future Community Justice Center project later this month, the Lynnwood City Council Monday reviewed the plans to expand the footprint of Lynnwood’s police department and municipal courts.

The Community Justice Center project includes renovating the existing Lynnwood Police Department building — located at 19321 44th Ave. W. —  as well as expanding east to the adjacent vacant site. At its March 1 work session, the council received a two-part update on the $64-million project, the schedule and how the city plans to cover the cost.

According to the draft ordinance, the city is proposing a maximum bond of $62 million, which would also cover the cost to issue the bonds. The proposal would also set the maximum interest rate at 5% (and maximum true interest rate at 4%) through Dec. 31, 2050.

During the first presentation, Lynnwood Police Chief Jim Nelson provided a brief update on the project’s design phase. After multiple space needs studies determined that the department, jail and municipal court have outgrown their current facility, city officials decided to renovate the existing building as well as expand east to the adjacent vacant site. The redevelopment would also add a new public entry for safer public screening, another courtroom and a private assessment area.

In an attempt to get the most out of the given space, Nelson said the department has resorted to creating makeshift workspaces in closets and hallways.

“Obviously there’s a need for how we use our space more efficiently and effectively (and) how we put our work groups together,” he said. “This project accomplishes all of that, which we were unable to do in our current facility.”

The city has been working on project plans for two years, and last September contracted with  the Seattle-based architecture firm Mackenzie Architects to design the future facility.

The briefing also included an update on plans for the Community Justice Center, which have been under development for two years. As of Monday, 90% of the project’s construction documents had been reviewed. At the end of the month, the project will be submitted for approval for construction permits after the second council meeting.

The project is scheduled to go to bid this summer with construction beginning at the end of June.

Construction will be a two-phase process. The first phase, lasting through September 2022, including demolishing the existing jail, utility work and building the new police department east of the current site.

The proposed police department building design includes a 37,000-square-foot, three-level facility with a dedicated lobby space and multi-use space on the first floor located off the primary public lobby as well as a community room and emergency operation center. Part of the second level will be used to store evidence that is currently being held off-site at Edmonds College.

Additionally, the 29,000-square-foot jail would be a split-level design, partially located under the police station with additional levels located north of the police station. 

Digital rendering of the Lynnwood Police Department.

The site will also have secure parking with more than 160 parking stalls for court and police department employees.

Under Phase 2, crews will expand the municipal courts to a new 18,000-square foot facility with an additional courtroom.

Highlights for the municipal courts include relocating the existing entryway and creating a new one to provide more security and entry control. With an additional courtroom, plans for the new building will include more room for jury space that can double as a multi-use space for after-hours programs and services.

The new jail will also provide greater capacity for inmates and resources for the neighboring Community Health Center (CHC. The health center plans to partner with the police department to help inmates meet court mandates like drug addiction and mental health treatments as well as health assessments like HIV testing for intravenous drug users. The partnership will help both organizations provide a continuity of care for those low-level misdemeanor offenders.

Project construction costs are  estimated at $45.7 million, with an additional $18.3 million for “soft costs” like furniture, electronics, supplies and everything else needed to furnish the facility and make it operational.

The second half of the briefing — presented by the city’s financial advisors PFM — reviewed the city’s debt capacity and repayment sources. Based on its 2021 assessed value, approximately $119 million of non-voting capacity could be leveraged against the city without voter approval. Most of the city’s debt comes from the Lynnwood Recreation Center and Lynnwood Convention Center, leaving $79.6 million in debt the council could take on without voter approval.

“This shows that there is…sufficient room to finance $60 million of project costs while still remaining under the city’s capacity limits,” said PFM financial consultant Steven Amano.

Assuming that the city issues the bonds, Amano estimated that $19 million of debt capacity would be remaining in 2021. According to Amano, $19 million is a conservative estimate and assuming an annual assessed growth of 2%, the city is projected to approximately $47 million of available non-voted capacity by 2025.

“I believe, over the past five years or so, the average growth rate has been upwards of 8%,” he said. “We also took a look at if the assessed value grew by 5%, that would lead to about $63 million of non-voted capacity in 2025 growing from the $19 million.”

The bonds would have a 30-year lifespan, which — based on current market rates — Amano estimated would cost $3.165 million in annual debt repayment between 2023 to 2050. 

The new facility would also have cost-saving benefits for the department, which pays to rent space for evidence at Edmonds College. A larger jail would also mean the department would not have to pay other facilities to house inmates.

Additionally, Amano said the designated criminal justice sales tax revenue — which amounts to about $500,000 — would go toward repaying debt for the project.

During the discussion, some councilmembers asked if the project would allow for future improvements near the site. In response, Amano said their team worked with city staff to ensure there was room for future improvements but there are currently no funds available.

“That work is coming down the line,” he said. “We don’t want to be in a position where we’re putting improvements that future projects the city would be implementing, that may affect those or have to be replaced.”

The council is scheduled to review the proposed bond ordinance at its March 8 business meeting.

In other business, the council reviewed updates to the city’s 2024 comprehensive plan.

Over the next three years, staff within the city’s Community Planning Division and Development and Business Services Department (DBS) will be working to update the comprehensive plan by working with staff across other city departments. 

The plan will consider a wide variety of topics and issues city leaders feel are important, like embedding race and social equity into the city’s planning process, prioritizing community in the face of changes, all in preparation for Lynnwood’s role as a regional transit hub with the arrival of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail in 2024.

The council will receive a series of memos and presentations throughout the comprehensive plan process that provide regular updates, discuss items of policy consideration, and review requests for policy direction. 

–By Cody Sexton

  1. Are you bringing the sidewalks and curb ramps in the construction area up to ADA standards? The curb ramp by the police station is dangerous. The sidewalk east of the police station is in hideous shape. Thank you.

  2. 160 parking stalls hahaha how many criminals are there in suburban Lynnwood? Be honest and just tell the people that your officers will be out harassing innocent teenagers for the next 30years to justify having a jail that is this size. What a joke. Tear down the convention center while your at it. This is the most corrupt city in this state.

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