Local Politics

Tie vote kills proposed Raleigh safety center

Posted March 2, 2010

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— The Raleigh City Council deadlocked Tuesday over plans for a public safety center downtown, effectively killing the $205 million project.

Mayor Charles Meeker and council members Mary-Ann Baldwin, Nancy McFarlane and James West supported raising property taxes by a half-cent in 2011 and another half-cent the following year to finance construction. But the proposal couldn't gain a necessary fifth vote to pass, as council members Thomas Crowder, Bonner Gaylord, John Odom and Russ Stephenson voted against it.

Harry Dolan, Raleigh police chief Safety center's demise disappoints police chief

The 300,000-square-foot safety center would have housed the city's police and fire departments, as well as its 911 operations center and other emergency services. The 16-story building was supposed to occupy the site where the Raleigh Police Department headquarters sits at the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets.

Police Chief Harry Dolan said he was disappointed by the vote.

"We've got great needs, and those needs over the decades are growing," Dolan said. "Eventually, we've got to sit down, and we've got to move forward."

The police department will move forward with plans to vacate the downtown headquarters for an office building on Six Forks Road, he said. The move was supposed to be in conjunction with the demolition of the old headquarters and construction of the safety center.

The safety center came under fire in recent weeks by council members who complained that it included unneeded amenities. Some also suggested that the city renovate the existing police headquarters and use it rather than construct another building.

"We never looked at this in the context of what we can afford and what we need for our city as a whole," Gaylord said Tuesday.

Meeker and City Manager Russell Allen have pushed to move forward with construction, which had been put on hold last year because of the tight budget. They said project delays would 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 last month that suggested the price tag for the safety center could jump to as much as $300 million if the project is pushed back.

"The city has already spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours (on the project)," McFarlane said Tuesday. "Going back to square one now will cause more delays and will end up costing the taxpayers more money."

"It will send a vote of confidence to our public safety workers that they're doing a good job," West added.

The tie vote means all work on the project will be halted immediately.

Stephenson said he didn't like the idea of housing emergency services in a high-rise building and said a different plan would be "less vulnerable" as well as less expensive.

Allen called the proposed center "a great site for security" and noted that New York City is building a 20-story tower for emergency services.

Crowder agreed that current facilities for the police and fire departments no longer meet their needs, and he said the council should work quickly to come up with another construction plan that can take advantage of the current low interest rates.

"We can move forward in a way that borrows money without a tax increase," he said.

Meeker shot down an attempt to do that, saying it would send the city "down a path of looking at a facility that is not as good" as the proposed center.

"Hopefully, there will be light at some point, and we can move forward," he said, noting the project is dead unless one of the opponents has a change of heart.

81 Comments

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  • ncwebguy Mar 3, 2010

    I understand the need to save money, but paying more for interest, materials, and labor later is not a better option. Rennovating the current building makes as much sense as rennovating the old convention center. Andy and Barney would be at home in the current building.

    The "stop wasteful spending" complainers wanted to not touch Fayetville St. If we did that, there would be no RBC HQ, no Campbell Law, more empty office space, and a lower tax base.

    For the previous uneducated comments, the proposed tower is tall because the footprint is small. The city doesn't own any parcels large enough to site a shorter, wider building anywhere in the city. NYC's building will be more than twice the size because it is "fatter".

    Putting it downtown is a reaction of decades of Raleigh Not In My BackYard complaints (NIMBYs). The only lesson is that whiners will whine, regardless of facts. RPD's district system eliminates the need for the overwhelming majority of citizen visits to HQ.

  • ncwebguy Mar 3, 2010

    Lives will be lost. The dead won't be able to spend the $20/year they're "saving" when the police or ambulance do not arrive in time.

    We've let tens of thousands of new people move into the area and didn't charge them anything for their impact on city services. Who has benefitted from this? Bonner Gaylord's boss, North Hills devloper Kane Realty and John Odom's development industry campaign contributors. The rest of us get to pay for their impact, which they keep as profit.

    It is crazy that people willfully pay for the rich who refuse to pay for things.

    We've put off upgrades for decades, so why not a few decades more?

    Heck, imagine how much more we could "save" if we stop providing police and fire coverage to areas outside John Odom, Bonner Gaylord, and Thomas Crowder's districts? The rest of the city will still be taxed, but they'll be taxed LESS for their lack of service. Win-win!

  • Drakula_I_G Mar 3, 2010

    AWESOME! Our tax dollars saved.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Mar 3, 2010

    I bet Allen and Meeker are frustrated that they can't waste our money and raise taxes to pay for this monument to themselves.

  • chfdcpt Mar 3, 2010

    Folks, that new building will house the PD and FD administrative and possibly detectives and the primary 9-1-1 center.

    As far as being spread out, the PD has 4 or 5 district stations, the FD has 28 fire stations thruought the city, and the 9-1-1 has a complete backup facility. Keep in mind that emergency operations still go on every night, weekend and holiday; when the brass are not in their offices. I guess that takes care of the belief of having all the eggs in one basket.

    Also, that building is over at least over 32 years old, and sooner or later it will need to be replaced.

  • Eduardo1 Mar 3, 2010

    tarheelsdontlikeedwards.......GREAT THOUGHT!!!!!!!!!!

  • hp277 Mar 3, 2010

    In addition to lower construction costs, Raleigh is missing a chance to lock in record low interest rates on this project. If and when the decision is made in a few years to move ahead with this project, even a scaled-down version will probably end up costing more due to higher construction costs and higher interest rates for borrowing.

    Spending money renovating old, inadequate space scattered here and there and leasing buildings is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The new building is meant to meet needs for the next 30 years - Raleigh's population will increase by hundreds of thousands of people by then, and will probably need a few more cops as well.

    Delaying this new building is a costly mistake.

  • jrfergerson Mar 3, 2010

    Why they voted this money hungry, fame searcher, unrealistic person called Meeker back in office is beyond me.

  • wilson321 Mar 3, 2010

    Thankfully this monstrosity won't be funded. Mayor Meeker has a penchant for spending like all good Democrats regardless of the need or cost. How foolish to begin with. Let's put all our emergency services in one building so the likes of Timothy McVey can park a truck full of AnFo out in front of it. I'd much rather see our police and fire resources distributed throughout the community where they will be closer to the people they serve. Next election let's send the good Mayor packing along with his big ticket ideas and free spending friends.

  • 1WakeCitizen Mar 2, 2010

    oops...back to the Wake County Justice center..........I guarantee most Wake County taxpayers have no idea how ELABORATE of a building it's going to be. HUGE ceilings, lots of glass, an ESCALATOR going from 1st floor to 2nd....just like a cruise ship. The county won't fund homeless services and services for senior citizens....but they sure will pay for an elaborate courthouse (yes....a courthouse and office space for STATE personnel) not a "justice center" as it is called. Now, THIS is a waste of money.........spend MORE on criminals and LESS on law abiding citizens. Way to go wake county!!

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