Local Politics

New financing proposed for Raleigh safety center

Posted April 2, 2010 11:13 a.m. EDT

— Raleigh City Manager Rusell Allen has proposed a new financing strategy that he hopes will revive plans for a $205 million public safety center in downtown.

A tie vote by the Raleigh City Council on March 2 stopped plans for the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center, amid concerns about financing and design.

Allen's new financing plan, which he will propose to the City Council next week, eschews earlier plans for a one-cent property tax raise. It keeps the proposed design for the 16-story, 300,000-square-foot building that would house the city's fire and police departments, 911 operations center and other emergency service.

Under the new proposal, the city would issue $200 million in bonds over the next two years. If the city applies for bonds under a federal stimulus program, the debt the city would take on would be even lower, according to Allen's proposal.

A plan to consolidate public works facilities and move maintenance and solid waste crews from a Peace Street facility would be dropped.

The plan would leave a gap in the city's budget, beginning at $2 million in fiscal year 2011-12 and growing to $4 million in fiscal year 2013-14, according to Allen's memorandum.

On March 2, Mayor Charles Meeker and council members Mary-Ann Baldwin, Nancy McFarlane and James West voted in support of the original financing plan for the center. Council members Thomas Crowder, Bonner Gaylord, John Odom and Russ Stephenson voted against it.

Crowder then urged the council to come up with a construction plan that didn't raise taxes and focused more on borrowing.

Other council members, including Gaylord and Stephenson, cited design issues, including unneeded amenities and safety concerns.

Meeker and Allen have pushed to move forward with construction, which was delayed last year due to budget concerns. They have that further delaying the project would cost the city if interest rates and labor and materials costs increase as the economy rebounds.