The city of Merced moved forward Monday, agreeing to buy a property for a new police station, and soon leaders could ask if you are willing to pay more in taxes to help foot the construction bill.
Merced City Council unanimously approved the purchase of the Merced Sun-Star building for $1.62 million on Monday, with plans to lease it back to the news company for a year at $2,500 a month, according to city staffers.
The 5.5-acre site at 3033 G St. is owned by McClatchy, the Sun-Star’s parent company.
The purchase of the land is the first step toward a new police station. The city is exploring a tax increase to pay the estimated $30 million construction cost, City Manager Steve Carrigan said on Tuesday.
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Carrigan said the city does not have that kind of money saved up, adding Merced saw a difficult decade during the Great Recession. Convincing voters to help pay for the station could be difficult, he said.
The cost of a police station that could serve a city the size of Merced is about $30 million, City Manager Steve Carrigan said.
Whether it’s a half-percent sales tax increase, a tax on land or some other method, he said, the city would ask a financial adviser to look into funding. “None of these are popular, no question about it,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for raising $30 million.”
But, prices will only rise with time so it’s important to buy the building now, according to Carrigan.
The city late last year began the process to sell land it owns at Yosemite Avenue and Mansionette Drive, which was previously marked for the new police headquarters, and to secure the Sun-Star property as the location for its new station.
McClatchy is eager to relocate the Sun-Star into more modern quarters and is actively assessing potential sites in Merced, Publisher Ken Riddick said.
“The sale of the Merced Sun-Star property represents another step in the evolution of our business and an opportunity to build upon our efforts in Merced to support strong local watchdog journalism and help Merced businesses achieve their marketing goals,” he said.
None of these (taxes) are popular, no question about it. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for raising $30 million.
Merced City Manager Steve Carrigan
Chief Norm Andrade has said the headquarters on West 22nd Street is inadequate, even calling it a “disgrace.” The chief says his department’s building is too small to house his 98 police officer positions and other employees. The Sun-Star site has room for growth and is centrally located for a city that continues to grow to the north, he said.
It’s unclear whether the council will decide to rehabilitate the G Street building or raze it and start over.
To keep the project moving forward, staffers said, the City Council will need to hire consultants to poll the public to determine if there is support for a sales tax increase, according to records.
A bond measure for a specific project would require a 55 percent vote for approval, according to the Merced County Registrar’s Office. A half-cent sales tax increase would require a 67 percent vote for approval.