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Raleigh council again debates safety center with no resolution

Posted January 19, 2010

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— Raleigh City Council members continued to spar Tuesday on the cost of a planned public safety center downtown but again failed to bring the project to a vote.

The council has discussed the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center at two consecutive meetings and agreed to bring the subject up again at the Feb. 2 meeting. Council members said they plan to solicit feedback from the public in the coming weeks.

The 300,000-square-foot center, which is projected to cost $205 million, would sit at the current site of the Raleigh Police Department at the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets. It would house the city's police and fire departments, as well as its 911 operations center and other emergency services.

"This building is more expensive than a regular office building," Mayor Charles Meeker said, noting it would include state-of-the-art technology and would be built to withstand major storms and the potential of a terrorist attack.

Noting Councilman John Odom recently compared the building to a Rolls Royce because of its amenities, Meeker said it's more like a fire truck because it would be designed to meet a special purpose. He said the center should have been built 10 years ago and called it "critical" to the well-being of local residents.

Some council members, including Odom, have said some features of the 16-story building could be eliminated to trim costs, while others have suggested renovating the current police department headquarters.

Paying for a new building would likely require the city to raise property taxes for several years.

"I don't think anyone wants to put any more burden on the taxpayers," Councilman Russ Stephenson said.

Odom asked whether the city could put the project on the ballot later this year as a bond referendum, but Meeker and City Manager Russell Allen pressed to move forward with the project, noting interest rates and construction prices are low because of the slow economy.

"Who is going to write our taxpayers a check for $20 (million) to $30 million if interest rates go up?" Meeker said. "The answer is no one."

Allen said the city could hold off on raising the property tax rate until January 2012 to allow time for the economy to recover before an increase would take effect.

"You don't have to approve the allocation of a penny (property tax) in the next year," he said.

Revenue from sources like utilities fees could pay for initial expenses on the project until the property tax increase kicks in, officials said.

Noting that construction of the building could create 1,800 jobs, Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said the city needs the economic boost the project would offer.

"If we're participating in creating jobs, we're doing a service for the residents," said Baldwin, who noted that she recently lost her marketing job.


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  • chfdcpt Jan 20, 2010

    In case of any major disaster or emergency, the leadership of the city and of the responding agencies will get together at one place and work under the unified command post system. It will be easier to provide security for one place, rather than multiple locations. Not to mention that it would be cheaper than to build separate HQ's for everyone.

  • howdiditgettothis Jan 19, 2010

    agree - curious georgia.

    i sure don't feel it is "critical" to my security for raleigh to spend $205 million tax payer dollars on a fancy building.

    this is equivalent to the large, pretentious buildings that Wake County builds for its "education" departments (like the one on Falls of Neuse road). It does ZERO to improve the quality of our students educations, but allows some paper pushers a nice cushy place to sit for 8 hours a day.

    Put the money to the people doing the work. Hire more policemen, firemen, teachers, etc.

    Additionally, how about Meeker, or other council members offer to reduce their salaries to show they realize the state of the economy right now.

  • rand321 Jan 19, 2010

    I do not think we need 700K for public art.

    while no one debates the need for a newer building and state of the art, are we getting teh best we can for the amount of money. is a single building cheaper than several smaller, more disperesed buildings. Especially for storms, terrorist attackes, etc. perhaps, housing that many functions into one building is not wise, nor practical.

    All we have been told, we need newer facilities, we need larger facilities for certain functions and we need them now. Constructino and interest rates are cheaper now. ok.

    but what are the other options? Do we need the 911 center there? do we need fire and police in one building? What studies did the city do and what options were presented or considered by staff?

  • SubwayScoundrel Jan 19, 2010

    People vote in the CC to make decisions. Good debate but the idea of this coming to a bond ref is just nutz. For a building ? Now this was the suggestion of Claude Pope, the puppets who want to control Raleigh. I agree, Odom should not be voted in as he is back to "NO" for everything crowd and not for a progressive city. I went in the current building back in the 1980s and thought "What a dump"

    Just wait until the next hurricane and all these people complaining here will be complaining about the city not working well together. Build the thing and lets move forward.

  • drjones74 Jan 19, 2010

    Agree atc2. And for the sake of analogy, this building is more like a Fire Truck, Police car or Humvee....not a Rolls Royce Mr. Odom.

  • atc2 Jan 19, 2010

    Odom is a waste of time and money (along with another member - they love to hear themselves talk about Nothing). Hey, people, thanks for voting this dinosuar back on council (he is the progress prevention desk). This building needs to be cutting edge (it's for our future safety - it needs to be very high tech for a growing region). Tired of this city cutting corners. This is why our downtown buildings have no character.
    Approve this building. The only thing that should be changed is the street level building looks (need retail)

  • me2you Jan 19, 2010

    It seems to me that the only way the gov't want to fix the economy are bail out companies, and create construction jobs (bldg, roads, etc) THEN raise taxes to pay for it all. lol. sure sounds logical to me.

  • curiousgeorgia Jan 19, 2010

    It is daft to put all the emergency services in one building. One well placed bomb and boom! Three for one. If terrorists want to hit Raleigh hard that would be a great starting point.

  • You are Funny Jan 19, 2010

    The building makes sense. If the police/fire/ems/911 have to deal with a major situation then it is easier to plan if your command staff is all under the same roof. Not to mention this area is prob. the most busy for answering calls in the state, and if not right behind Charlotte. Something is going to be built. It doesn't matter if wake county citizens want it. The fact is it is long overdue and if you are going to do it you may as well do it right. You need room for growth in the building (police/fire/ems are not going to shrink only grow). remodeling the old building will not do that. It needs to have state of the art communications etc. and it needs to be able to withstand storms of any kind. Good touch being able to handle a terrorist attack also...

  • colliedave Jan 19, 2010

    Revenue from sources like utilities fees could pay for initial expenses on the project until the property tax increase kicks in, officials said.

    and just who pays these fees? the tooth fairy