Local News

New Raleigh public safety center could cause tax increase

Posted January 4, 2010 11:35 p.m. EST
Updated January 4, 2010 11:45 p.m. EST

— Raleigh’s new Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center is expected to cost $226 million. Construction on the 17-story facility will take more than two years, and could lead to a tax increase.

"This will make our police and fire departments more efficient, and should there be some big emergency, such as a hurricane or another ice storm, it will put us in a much stronger position than where we are today,” Mayor Charles Meeker said of the new facility.

Meeker is in favor of the 305,000-square-foot safety center, which would replace the current police headquarters on Hargett and McDowell streets. However, some City Council members are raising concerns over the cost.

Council member Bonner Gaylord, who was elected last year to Philip Isley's District E seat, said he doesn't think the old public safety building needs to be torn down.

"The current police headquarters could be saved,” he said.

Gaylord said the city could save nearly $30 million by renovating the current headquarters, and creating new offices elsewhere. He said the plan for the safety center needs more public debate.

"I feel like regardless of the economic climate, the public should have a voice in how its dollars are spent,” Gaylord said.

The slow economy has already delayed construction of the center, and Meeker said he hopes to see work get started this year.

"If we start it later, of course, it will likely cost more and mean larger tax increases down the road,” Meeker said.

The police headquarters is scheduled to temporarily relocate from its current downtown location to 6719 Six Forks Road while the new public safety center is built in the location. That move is expected to be complete in March.

The new center was designed to meet a "gold standard" of environmental efficiency, including a rooftop system to collect rainwater, a layout that uses sunlight to aid interior lighting and sensors to control lights, heating and air conditioning.

When finished, it will also house the headquarters of the Raleigh Fire Department, the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center, a traffic control center and a data center.

The City Council is expected to talk about funding for the public safety center at Tuesday's meeting, which is open to the public, at the Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex.