Raleigh's public safety center proposal resurrected?

April 1, 2010 9:49:20 PM PDT
The proposal for a new public safety center in Raleigh was voted down last month largely because a tax hike would have been required.Officials say it all comes down to priorities. The only way to build the Lightner Center without a tax hike is to put off other projects the city needs.

Under the new plan, two new maintenance facilities wouldn't be built, one in the northwest part of the city and one in downtown. Two other facilities would also be impacted by having to do without improvements.

They are facilities some city officials say have been needed for more than a decade. City councilor Bonner Gaylord says it feels like a shell game.

"We can't as a city say that we can afford a car today by removing food from tomorrow's budget," Gaylord said.

But the mayor of Raleigh says it's not a shell game.

"It's prioritizing the city's needs," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "It's putting the most important thing first, which is the Lightner Center and then putting the other facilities later, when the economy improves and hopefully we can afford those, hopefully without tax increases then."

But Gaylord says that is his main concern. According to the city, the projects that wouldn't happen because the Lightner Center would cost about $200 million. Money, Gaylord says, that will ultimately have to be spent.

"It will likely cause need for a tax increase in the future if we were to proceed with it," Gaylord said.

But the mayor says it comes down to needs. As much as the city needs those other facilities, Meeker says, it needs the Lightner Center more.

"Street maintenance, sanitation division are outmoded and not anywhere as efficient as they need to be, but when you draw up priorities, you've got to put public safety first," Meeker said.

The council will look at the plan on Tuesday.

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