Local Politics

Raleigh safety center back on table

Posted May 18, 2010

— After months of bitter debate, the City Council on Tuesday revived plans for a controversial downtown tower to house Raleigh's public safety operations.

Councilman John Odom switched his vote to break a 4-4 stalemate on plans for the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center. The move came after officials agreed to a compromise brokered by Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin to put 911 operations in the basement of the building or move them to a separate location.

The original plans for the 16-story, 300,000-square-foot building called for housing the 911 center on the top floors. Moving the operation into a basement bunker or another location would likely shrink the size of the building, officials said.

Odom asked that the designer conduct a threat assessment to determine the best location for the 911 center and whether a downtown tower could become a target for terrorists or criminals.

The tower, to be built at the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets, would house the city's fire and police departments and other emergency services. The Raleigh Police Department vacated its building on the site in March.

The City Council deadlocked in March on a plan to finance the center. Some council members expressed concern about raising taxes to pay it off, and others said the building included unnecessary amenities and needed to be redesigned to cut costs.

Mayor Charles Meeker and City Manager Russell Allen have pushed to begin construction on the safety center, saying Raleigh could save millions by locking in lower labor and material prices before the economy picks up steam.

A task force that included Meeker and three council members hasn't been able to agree in recent weeks on whether an outside consultant was needed to re-evaluate plans for the safety center. With Tuesday's vote, a consultant would no longer be needed.

Council members Thomas Crowder, Bonner Gaylord and Russ Stephenson voted against the new safety center plans. Stephenson said a basement bunker for the 911 center could add to the building's $205 million price tag.

Council members are expected to get a new design plan at their first meeting in June.


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  • Mugu May 21, 2010

    One plus is that if we do build this, all of the illegal immigrants will be employed for a couple more years.

  • mtnmama May 19, 2010

    Whether we need it or not, we can't afford it. People need jobs in order to pay the taxes that will surely increase to pay for this monstrosity. Even if the budget was a non issue, I'm against housing all these departments in the same building...one bomb or bomb threat, or natural disaster and every vital emergency service is affected at once...too risky IMO. But again, it's just not the right time. If we are cutting jobs and services, then we can do without this building. If someone's vote changed, I'd be curious to know WHY he did so. Just can't trust any politician anymore. Something smells rotten here for sure. Years from now a scandal wil emerge about how so&so accepted a favor, a bribe, a seat on a board, or some such baloney. And that's what I think of this project....it's just baloney.

  • Mugu May 19, 2010

    Why not build the building in the blighted, high crime area of downtown instead? There is a two acre parcel on Martin and East that would be perfect and help deter the high crime in the area.

  • imtiredofit May 19, 2010

    Does anyone in their right mind believe that their taxes are not going to pay for this project? Right now this state and most others are struggling to find ways to pay for everyday services because of the bad economy, and Raleigh's mayor has come up with a way to build this thing without raising taxes?? I have some swamp land in Florida that I want to sell.....

  • freedomrings May 19, 2010

    Mo' money. Mo' Money. Last time I looked, they took checkbooks AWAY from people who have a zero balance.

  • HonestAb May 19, 2010

    The Mayor and City Manager will buy the votes needed - with your property tax revenue. Oh they will tell you they can finance it with bonds and won't cost us a dime. Right and I got a bridge to sell you.

    Look out Raleigh - Meeker going to pick your pocket.

  • BigUNCFan May 19, 2010

    kpanilaryea, are you really mayor Meeker under an assumed name :)?

  • Hans May 19, 2010

    "please if you dont wanna see raleigh prosper move to wilson or rocky mount.

    Please explain how some super "safety center" is going to help Raleigh prosper.

  • the genius May 19, 2010

    after reading most of these comments its clear... raleigh residents like their city to remain the same... for years and years to come which is why it will take raleigh three times longer to prosper than most other cities. when will you learn that this is a priority this is no a corvette like somebody suggested this is the police headquarters. who has ever been to a city the size of raleigh and seen the police headquarters in a building the size of best buy?? i mean cmon what is the matter with these raleigh people here? most of you say lets wait but you know just like i do that when they wait and bring this same proposal up in lets say a few more years then all of you will say oh its too expensive or we dont need it. please if you dont wanna see raleigh prosper move to wilson or rocky mount.

  • dwntwnboy May 19, 2010

    "Didn't the county just agree to build a new justice center downtown too?"- two different animals. One is the City of Raleigh Emergency Services Center and the other is a new County Court House- already in progress. They have nothing to do with each other. Different officials involved with each one.