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Safety center expected back on Raleigh council's agenda

Plans for the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center have some council members concerned because of its price and features.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Plans for a $205 million emergency services building in downtown Raleigh is expected to be on the City Council's agenda Tuesday.

The 300,000-square-foot Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center, which will sit at the current site of the Raleigh Police Department at the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets, will house the city's police and fire departments, as well as its 911 operations center and other emergency services.

The proposal has caused concern among some council members who have questioned the need for certain amenities during tough economic times that they say unnecessarily inflates construction costs

"In bad economic times, if I were going to buy a new car, I certainly wouldn't buy a Rolls Royce. I'd buy a Ford or Chevrolet or something like that," Councilman John Odom said.

Other members have suggested renovating the building that now houses the police department.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, as well as other council members, say that with the economy, now is the best time to build.

"This is not a luxury building; it's a special-purpose building," Meeker said. "By building it now, we can save $20 million in construction costs and approximately $30 million in interest costs."

So far, the plan to pay for the 16-story building has included an 8 percent property-tax increase over five years. Meeker, who hopes to see construction begin this year, said he would like to find alternative financing, a matter expected to be up for discussion Tuesday.

The slow economy has already delayed construction of the center. 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.



Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer

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