Local Politics

Consultants could smooth dispute over proposed Raleigh safety center

Posted April 6, 2010 4:13 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT

— Five weeks after a deadlocked City Council killed plans for a $205 million downtown tower to house all of Raleigh's public safety operations, the proposal stirred to life again Tuesday.

The City Council voted 7-1 to establish a task force that will outline issues to be addressed by an independent consultant, such as possible sites, design, cost savings, and functionality and organization of the facility. The council still must vote to hire a consultant to carry out the study.

The proposed Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center would house the city's fire and police departments, 911 operations center and other emergency services in a 16-story, 300,000-square-foot building at the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets. The Raleigh Police Department recently vacated its building on the site.

The council couldn't agree last month on a plan to finance the center, effectively killing the project. Some council members expressed concern about raising taxes to pay it off, and others said the building included unnecessary amenities and was too costly.

City Manager Russell Allen last week proposed a new financing strategy so Raleigh could build the safety center without raising taxes.

Under his proposal, the city would issue $200 million in federally subsidized bonds over the next two years under provisions of the economic stimulus program. Some other capital projects would be scaled back to free up funds for the safety center.

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

The council didn't vote on Allen's finance plan.

Mayor Charles Meeker and council members Mary-Ann Baldwin, Bonner Gaylord and Russ Stephenson will serve on the new task force, which is expected to start meeting next week.