Local Politics

Meeker uses annual speech to lobby for safety center

Posted February 15, 2010

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— Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker on Monday repeated his call that the city move forward with construction of a $205 million public safety center downtown, saying delays will only add to construction costs.

Meeker also noted during his 2010 State of the City address that Raleigh has weathered the economic downturn better than many other cities and is well-positioned to grow as the business climate improves.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker Web only: Raleigh's 2010 State of the City address

The 300,000-square-foot Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center would house the city's police and fire departments, as well as its 911 operations center and other emergency services. The 16-story building would sit at the current site of the Raleigh Police Department at the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets.

City Council members have in recent weeks debated the cost of the project, which could require a tax increase. Some have suggested ways to cut costs, and others have called for renovating the existing police headquarters instead of constructing a new building.

"We need to look at other options. We have looked at this option, and it's extremely expensive," City Councilman Bonner Gaylord said Monday. "Our public safety departments will need more space, absolutely, but there are multiple ways to accomplish that."

Gaylord said the city should consider using existing building space to save money.

Raleigh could save tens of millions of dollars by moving forward on a new building now, while interest rates are low and construction firms are cutting prices to win business, Meeker said.

"It's roughly a 20 percent discount on this building. We can buy this for 80 cents on the dollar if we go ahead and get going now," he said.

The building could be financed with a half-cent property tax increase in 2012 and another half-cent increase the following year, he said.

"It's a fairly minor adjustment for a fairly important facility," he said, adding that a second phase of the project could be delayed to save money.

Meeker also said in his speech that, despite nationwide economic turmoil and job losses, Raleigh is moving in the right direction and has even grown in the past year.

"We're actually getting through this fairly well. You are not seeing us close parks or cancel major projects," he said.

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  • charlesboyer Feb 16, 2010

    @RWS: Actually, I think that LEO and safety officer pay is quite relevant, and if they are not given any sort of raise at the same time a grandiose building is planned, then it shows where the mayor and the city's real priorities are.

    IMO, that's the wrong place. An officer should not need to work a second job just to get by. He or she should be well compensated. These are the people that keep our streets safe, and that's not something that we should just take for granted.

  • SouthernLady05 Feb 16, 2010

    My husband is a LEO and did not get a raise this year, because there was no money. Also i'm 99% sure RFD didn't get thier annual's this year either. Where is this money coming from? They are willing to build this nice new state of the art center (which Raleigh needs IMO,but not on such a grandiose scale) but couldn't give raises to Police or Fire???

  • Fun Feb 16, 2010

    We as voters have ourselves to blame. In the early 2000's we voted to give governments, state and local the ability to borrow money...unlimited amounts through the issuance of "certificates of participation" Up until then we voted on each item. No more, the checkbook (borrowing) no longer has to voted on by the citizens. They just borrow and borrow and borrow. The question is, how do we now take that authorization back???? Lets close the checkbook of borrowing !

  • ids Feb 15, 2010

    This is priceless...I do not live in Raleigh, but this sounds so familiar to what my wife says when she going shopping..
    Did you see how much money I saved you...after she spent 300.00 to save me 20...

  • woodrowboyd2 Feb 15, 2010

    ask yourself
    do you want a new home
    answer sure
    can you afford it now
    no
    will it be higer later
    yes but right now you cant afford it why dosent the city ask its self the same question answer because we are paying for it.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 15, 2010

    It affects more than just the city taxpayers, it affects the entire county. Meeker has a point about the cost would be less right now, but that assumes you need to build a new building in the first place.

  • whatdidusay Feb 15, 2010

    Good Lord. Why is it so difficult to see? Build the new building, tear down the old building, build a parking deck for Mclaurin to manage. Family makes money. Just a Thought

  • Vietnam Vet Feb 15, 2010

    When are politicians going to realize that there are only so many taxpayers available and you can only tax them so much before the pool dries up. I've no doubt that Raleigh probably does need new facilities but now is not the time...

  • oldcorp Feb 15, 2010

    No party invite at all. Just giving the reason why there's a vacuum of opinion from the folks that occupy the spaces involved. It affects them not, not even in taxes - most do not live in the city limits - can't afford to. Why? Salaries.

  • RWS Feb 15, 2010

    "Would it be nice to have a new, shiny HQ? Sure. Will it help the individual officer pay his bills and rid the necessity of one or more off-duty jobs? No."

    The new building is going to help with any city employee's pay. Let's not start the "we have it the worst" pity party.

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