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Sheriff’s Office plans progress on Precinct 3
Plans to reopen the King County Sheriff’s Office Precinct 3 in Maple Valley are moving forward.
Precinct 3, also known as the Hicks-Raburn Precinct or Southeast Precinct, is slated to return to its former home located off state Route 169 in Maple Valley.
Reopening the precinct is contingent upon the King County Council approving a proposed $655,556 in its 2014 budget for capital projects that need to be completed at the site.
Major Brad Thompson, who was named commander for Precinct 3, explained the closure of the precinct came about two years ago in response to the Sheriff’s Office moving from a precinct model to a zones model in order to cut costs. Now the Sheriff’s Office is moving back to a precinct model.
Currently, the Sheriff’s Office has a satellite office in Covington that deputies work out of, but Thompson said the space poses several challenges. Among those, Thompson said, are that there are no holding cells in Covington, nowhere to lay out evidence, and nowhere to have meetings other than to rent space from the city.
“These are just a couple of the issues,” Thompson said. “The space we’re in now has probably less square footage than the average 7-11.”
The Precinct 3 building, on the other hand, has three holding cells, a locker room, as well as community and private meeting room spaces.
“So far we’ve had great support by the County Council and County Executive (Dow Constantine) and Sheriff (John) Urquhart has been working tirelessly,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that they are planning to have the precinct up and running in February.
The property and building are both owned by the county but certain projects need to be completed before it can reopen.
Among those projects are replacing the heating and air conditioning system which was vandalized after the building closed, Thompson said, and it also needs to be brought up to current codes in addition to painting, cleaning, updating electrical systems and moving in furniture. Thompson also said the plans to call for some landscape work to improve security, improving the fence around the precinct, and adding a camera system.
King County Sheriff John Urquhart jokingly considers the proposed reopening of the Hicks-Raburn Precinct a possible show for reality TV.
“Welcome to Extreme Makeover: Maple Valley,” Urquhart said Oct. 25 before a tour of the building. “The curb appeal should be pretty great.”
On a serious note, however, Urquhart said reopening the precinct is critical when it comes to customer service.
“There are 250,000 people in southeast King County,” Urquhart said. “This will give them a place to go.”
With deputies in patrol cars highly visible in the area again, it will offer a sense of security, Urquhart explained.
“Our mission is reducing crime and fear of crime,” Urquhart said. “Reducing fear of crime is just as important. When we get people here in this central location, our response time will go down.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine noted that Urquhart’s pitch to reopen the precinct made sense to him because it is important both to residents of the area and to deputies who patrol it.
“We had to do some tough thinking about the cost,” Constantine said. “That is really going to pale in comparison to the benefit.”
County Councilman Reagan Dunn, who represents the area, said his job now is to ensure the proposed cost for the renovation and reopening of the precinct is part of the final budget.
Dunn added that after conversations with other County Council members, he is optimistic the votes are there to support the funds requsted for the Hicks-Raburn Precinct.
“This is a point of interest for people who live out here,” Dunn said. “It makes people feel safer. It is, I think, a huge victory, the biggest victory for the citizens of southeast King County this year. A constant police presence ... it’s a good thing.”
Dunn said he anticipated the budget to come out of committee this week and the County Council could vote on a final 2014 budget in mid-November.
Staffing levels will remain the same, Thompson said, and staff salaries are a part of the Sheriff’s Office’s operational budget.
Staff positions include Thompson, 1.5 captains, four professional staff, eight patrol sergeants, a detective sergeant, four detectives, and 51 deputies.
It is also proposed that the special operations unit be moved into the building which includes a captain, sergeant, and six deputies.
Thompson said that throughout the county space is at a premium and currently members of special operations are located at several different locations.
“It (moving special operations to Maple Valley) provides for a central work location for people to do their work,” Thompson said.
The plans call for the Covington office to become a storefront location, like the Fairwood location, for deputies as the Sheriff’s Office wanted to honor its lease with the city of Covington.
The long term plan for Precinct 3 also includes taking down the north fence and building a covered parking area where special operations can store its variety of armored and other vehicles that need to be sheltered from the elements. Thompson explained that currently those vehicles are stored at various sites around the county that the Sheriff’s Office is paying for.
Thompson said that still unknown are exact building renovation plans and the Sheriff’s Office is also waiting for final budget approval from the county.
Thompson said that while providing better functionality and uniting the special operations unit, the reopening of Precinct 3 also will provide additional meeting spaces for community groups.
“The more things we can bring in the better the relationship, it’s a win-win all the way around,” Thompson said. “I haven’t heard anyone who thinks moving back into the building is a bad idea.”
Assistant Editor Kris Hill also contributed to this report.