Debate continues over Lightner Center

February 16, 2010 6:08:40 PM PST
There was no vote Tuesday for Raleigh's proposed public safety center, but there was a lot more debate among city leaders.Most everyone agrees the Raleigh Police Department has grown out of its old headquarters.

But the eight percent tax hike that was on the table is a tough sell, so the mayor has expanded on a new pitch.

First, it was the design of the 17 story Clarence Lightner Public Safety Center that was in question.

ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team exposed what some called extravagances, including private bathrooms for employees.

So Monday, Mayor Charles Meeker proposed a plan to lower the burden on Raleigh taxpayers.

"It was imperative that we find a better way to fund this," Raleigh City Council Mary-Ann Baldwin said. "I think the mayor has done that."

Meeker's new plan would require a one cent tax hike, phased in over the next three years or about $20 on a $200,000 home.

"Essentially it's just moving around needs," Raleigh City Council Bonner Gaylord said.

Gaylord doesn't like the mayor's new plan, saying it would delay other crucial city projects.

Then there are councilors opposed to any tax hike at all.

"In this economic climate, the worst recession in our lifetimes, we should focus on the most important elements of the emergency ops that we're talking about, get those done, and as the economy moves forward," Raleigh City Councilmember Russ Stephenson said. "We can go back, and look again at funding headquarters and remote ops."

But supporters of the mayor's plan say not pursuing it will ultimately leave the city worse off.

"I think we're trading off a McDonald's meal for a public safety center that our police officers deserve," Baldwin said.

A competing plan the council is considering wouldn't raise taxes at all, it's being called Plan B - first put forward two weeks ago.

Gaylord helped put Plan B together and says it would address Raleigh's public safety needs in phases.

He says on the low end, Plan B would save taxpayers $70 million.

However, some argued Tuesday if it would get the job done.

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