Local Politics

Safety center produces stalemate over stalemate

Posted April 27, 2010 3:35 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT

— The City Council apparently cannot agree on anything when it comes to a proposed center for all of Raleigh's public safety operations.

A council task force tabled discussion Tuesday on whether the city should spend up to $150,000 on a consultant to re-evaluate plans for the $205 million Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center. Some members said plans for the downtown tower should be scrapped and the city should start over from scratch.

The original plan for the safety center called for housing 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 last month vacated its building on the site.

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 was too costly.

City Manager Russell Allen then proposed a financing strategy that would allow Raleigh to build the safety center without raising taxes, prompting the council to take a second look at the idea.

A task force made up of Mayor Charles Meeker and council members Mary-Ann Baldwin, Bonner Gaylord and Russ Stephenson have met twice to draw up a list of issues for an outside consultant to examine, such as location and financing, but the issue continues to split city officials.

"It's obvious we need a new public safety center. Our police department now is housed in a former bar. I think that they deserve better than that," Baldwin said. "I'm not sure what we do at this point."

The police department's downtown substation has moved to a former restaurant and nightclub on Dawson Street, but police headquarters is now in an office building on Six Forks Road.