Local Politics

Councilman blasts design of Raleigh safety center

Posted February 16, 2010

— The debate over a proposed public safety center in downtown Raleigh once again generated plenty of heat Tuesday among City Council members, but no decision was reached.

Councilman Bonner Gaylord rebuked the city staffers who developed the plans for the $205 million Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center, saying the process was rife with oversights and errors.

Raleigh Councilman Bonner Gaylord Councilman's criticism irks Raleigh mayor

As planned, the 300,000-square-foot 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.

Speaking on behalf of the council members opposed to the project, Gaylord said the decision to "cram everything into one building caused costs to soar."

Gaylord and others have suggested that the city renovate the existing police headquarters building and use it rather than construct another building.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and City Manager Russell Allen are pushing to move forward with construction, saying project delays could cost the city if interest rates and labor and materials costs increase as the economy rebounds.

A consultant hired by the city presented a report to the City Council on Tuesday that suggested the price tag for the safety center could jump to as much as $300 million if the project is pushed back.

Gaylord said there is no way to know if holding off on the project for a year or so will lead to higher costs. He outlined seven other issues he called misconceptions in the debate, including statements that the project would create hundreds of jobs and be an important piece of downtown's future.

"The current design would be a beautiful addition to our skyline, but the fact is, outside of seeing it from afar, relatively few people will get to experience it," he said. "There would be no improved response times, and citizens would be no more safe than they currently are due to this building."

Gaylord's continued criticism of the project clearly rankled Meeker, who shed his usual calm demeanor in responding.

"You couldn't be more off base," he said to Gaylord. "This is an excellent location for this building."

The council remains deadlocked, with four members on either side of the debate, and no vote was taken Tuesday on whether to proceed with the project.

"If we're going to build this building, we need to go ahead and do it right the first time," Meeker said.


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  • this is fdup Feb 17, 2010

    Seems Mr. Gaylord would like to see 911 calls handled with soup cans and string. Maybe they could just put out port -a -johns for staff to use as we all know flush toilets are a extra expense.

  • justusparadox Feb 17, 2010

    For those complaining about the design, the building has glass to conserve energy by allowing more natural light! Some of the comments on here are just silly. Moving forward on this project will be good for the city. The best way to spur development is by developing.

  • housemanagercary Feb 17, 2010

    Come up with a reasonable alternative and the people will support it. $700,000 for artwork is NOT reasonable. 16 stories when there is an abundance of unused Class A space is NOT reasonable. etc etc etc

  • archmaker Feb 16, 2010

    hey, lets have the police and fire departments drive the vehicles from 1950s as well. or maybe we can save money by renovating the old vehicles to at least 1970 so that they would have seatbelts (you know, those modern necessities).

    but don't buy them the new camero. that's too fancy and cost too much.

  • invisible69mailx Feb 16, 2010

    raleigh............the city of oaks. $200 million give or take for the convention center. now another $200 million or so for the public safety center.

    ha.......money doesnt grow on trees..........even in the city of oaks.

    a more dispersed facility ..............with a greater degree flexibility would be a better approach......and scaled down from the $200 million figure.

  • hotels75401 Feb 16, 2010

    Speaking as a retired Raleigh Fire Captain, I can tell you the Fire Department has the capacity to reach the exterior of the 9th floor of most buildings using current ladder trucks. This is a critical factor with regard to firefighting and rescue capability. My worst fear was a high-rise incident where compromised accessibility could lead to greater loss of property and life. Firefighters DO NOT like high-rise buildings. We don't want you to have to work inside one, and neither do WE!! Mayor Meeker, scrap the idea and consider spreading these services out to other locations. There are several abandoned commercial properties that could be leased and retrofitted for far less money. Just think; maybe one of those could be named after you! After all, that seems to be the most important consideration.

  • Prancy Feb 16, 2010

    Could we house the Police Departement in the new Civic Center? Just trying to save money.

  • streetfightinman Feb 16, 2010

    mayor meeker take your raises you and the cronies got last year and pay for this ,the taxpayers say no! better start selling chicken and barbeque plates to pay for it.

  • MarcoPolo Feb 16, 2010

    If meeker had his way, he'd build the safety center in the model of the Arc de Triumph on Hillsborough street.

    Meeks needs a grip. Talk about tax and spend liberal. No recession and 15% unemployment won't stop him.

  • rand321 Feb 16, 2010

    We do not need to spend 200 million, nor should we put everything into one place. The hardworking emergency personnel deserve support and appropriate resouces, but a centralized tower with 700 k of public artwork is not what is needed.