PCC's Public Safety Building Challenge

November bond would increase lifespan of campus facilities

9/12/2017, 4:41 p.m.
Measure on the ballot includes funding for safety and security upgrades throughout the college district.
Sgt. Erik Hargrove works out of Portland Community College’s oldest public safety facility, a former dentist’s office that was converted to work space a few years ago on the Cascade Campus of north Portland. The small building would be replaced as part of a proposed new property tax bond levy that would pay for needed upgrades across the college district.

Ensuring student success includes providing a safe and supportive learning environment, and on any given day Portland Community College's public safety officers are called to deal with everything from a disruptive individual in the cafeteria to locked keys in a car.

At Cascade Campus, the staff works out of the college's oldest public safety facility, a modest one-level structure on Killingsworth Street at Commercial Avenue, at the east edge of campus. It was originally built as a residence in 1952 and later served for several years as a dentist's office.

The list of problems at the aged building is long and poses challenges for the seven officers who work there. According to their supervisor, Sgt. Erik Hargrove, there are windows that don't open, paper-wrapped wiring and peeling paint. The heating and cooling systems need frequent service and there are structural issues with the roof.

The small room that serves as the men's locker room still has the plumbing and outlets for the dental practice's nitrous oxide and oxygen lines, and the basement is still equipped for sterilizing dental tools. On a recent visit, the only place to stow an officer's bicycle was in the bathroom.

"This space was never intended to house us," said Hargrove. "A lot of things are cobbled together just because they've had to be, as opposed to being designed specifically with public safety input into how a space is intended to be used."

PCC's other campuses have purpose-built public safety offices, but as Hargrove described, the most critical problem at Cascade is that its safety office is difficult to find and the exterior -- complete with metal bars on the windows and front door -- is forbidding instead of welcoming or reassuring to the campus and community.

"People just don't know where we are, and it's tough to differentiate us from any other structure in the neighborhood as opposed to being part of the college," he said. "Our entry way is the farthest point from the edge of campus and it's set into the wall, and until you're almost past it you don't know what's here."

PCC's bond measure on the November ballot includes funding for safety and security upgrades throughout the college district, as well as $3 million for a new, dedicated facility on the same site at Cascade. As with the current office, the new building would include space for the City of Portland police staff who partner with Cascade's officers.

The total PCC bond facing voters is $185 million and would also fund improvements to PCC job training centers, including the facility at Northeast 42nd and Killingworth; increase the lifespan of other facilities across the district; improve workforce training programs to better align with current and future jobs; and invest in training for Health and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs.

If approved, the measure will not increase the tax rate because it is a renewal of an expiring bond passed by voters in 2000. It’s estimated to maintain the tax rate of 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for the next 16 years.

For Hargrove, connectivity with the campus and community is vital to public safety's mission, "If we had a space that was designed to make it very well known what is here, then people would be more inclined and able to find us and utilize the services that we provide," he added.