Local News

Raleigh council looks to trim planned safety center

Posted January 5, 2010 4:09 p.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2010 7:00 p.m. EST

— City Council members on Tuesday discussed ways to cut costs in the planned Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center and keep any tax increase needed to pay for the facility to a minimum.

Designs for the building already have been reduced by one floor, from 17 to 16 stories, and construction costs have been cut by $27 million from December 2008 estimates. The 302,000-square-foot building is now expected to cost $205 million.

The public safety center would provide a new home for the Raleigh Police Department, Raleigh Fire Department, 911 communications center and other emergency services. It would be built on the site where the police department is now headquartered, at the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets.

"What we really want is the room to operate today and tomorrow and not to move as much. That may be more information than what you want, but I know that the officers would like homes for the next decade or two," Police Chief Harry Dolan told the City Council during a Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Some council members questioned the need for certain amenities inside, such as a large auditorium and viewing room. They said such components unnecessarily inflate the cost of the building.

"We've heard people say, 'We need it,' but we don't need a Taj Mahal," Councilwoman Nancy McFarlane said.

"How are the city's interests being protected and making sure that is as low a guaranteed maximum price as it can be?" Councilman Russ Stephenson said.

Councilman Bonner Gaylord has questioned the need for the new building altogether, saying he thinks the police headquarters could be renovated instead of replaced.

The City Council is expected to continue discussing the public safety center at its Jan. 19 meeting.

The slow economy has already delayed construction of the center, and Mayor Charles Meeker said he hopes to see work get started this year. The police headquarters is scheduled to move out of downtown by March so that demolition can begin on the current building.

Officials said the project would create 1,800 construction jobs, and Meeker said delaying the project could cost Raleigh more in the long run.

"It can't be a better time to build it in terms of construction costs and interest costs. We can lock in a $50 million savings by proceeding now," he said.