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Voter Rejection of Police Station Tax Leaves Buena Park With Few Options

City manager says there is no other way to finance a $15-million replacement of the old building, except another ballot measure.

March 08, 2001|JERRY HICKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Buena Park officials were at a loss Wednesday for how to cope with an outmoded police station after voters rejected a special tax to build a new one.

"I have no idea" how to proceed, Councilwoman Patsy Marshall said.

She said she hoped City Manager Greg Beaubien had a backup plan for getting it built.

But Beaubien said he doesn't have one. "We didn't have any alternatives," he said. "That's why we had to go to the voters."

The city manager said the best bet may be to go back to the voters and ask again.

"We got their attention this time. They know the need is there," Beaubien said. "We may just have to plead our case again."

Tuesday's ballot in Buena Park listed just one issue: Measure P, a special tax that would have raised $1 million a year for 30 years to cover the cost of the police station.

Construction of the station was estimated at $15 million, but financing costs would have doubled the overall price tag. The average cost per household would have been about $30 a year.

A majority of voters supported Measure P--56% to 44%--but it needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Many who voted no said they believed the city could find another way to get a police station without hitting up taxpayers for extra money.

But the city manager rejected that idea.

"That's just not true," Beaubien said. "It's like being in the desert and someone says, 'Go find some water.' OK, where?"

Buena Park resident Kathy Hansen, who tried to rally neighbors and friends to vote against the tax, said the fear of rising utility costs worried her most.

"I'm for our Police Department, but this is just not a good time to talk about new taxes," Hansen said.

Police Chief Richard M. Tefank, who had lobbied hard on behalf of Measure P, said his department is left with what he sees as a desperate need for a new facility.

The existing one-story building was built in 1964 and designed to house fewer than 100 workers. But the total staff, with community volunteers and reserves, is more than three times that size now. Also, the building isn't earthquake-proof and has no handicapped access between the basement and the main floor.

"The voters' decision doesn't change things," Tefank said. "The city will have to do something. We just don't know what right now."

One longshot possibility would be a voter initiative to reduce the two-thirds threshold for such special municipal taxes. Tefank and Beaubien point to the recent passage of Proposition 39, which reduced the long-standing two-thirds vote burden for school construction bonds approval to 55%.

"Maybe voters would support that if it was strictly for public safety," Beaubien said.

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