City council approves safety center's design

RALEIGH The question is when will it go up and some wonder whether now is the right time to be talking about a $226 million project.

The state of the art facility will eventually go where the current police department stands. That building is slated for demolition next year. The police department will be temporarily moved to a facility on Six Forks Road.

Tuesday, the city council approved the safety center's design, but not without some heated debate.

"We're in a budget crunch right now," city council member Philip Isley said. I still don't think we need to build this right now."

"I am very concerned of the timing, financially, economically," city council member Rodger Koopman said.

Koopman says he's also concerned about filling such a building.

"When I looked the retention numbers of our police department they seem to be getting worse, not better, and so part of my concern is we're building a very pretty building," Koopman said. "What use is it to have a safety center if we don't seem to be able to retain enough police officers to do job number one of the city of Raleigh which is to provide and safe and secure environment for the citizens."

The city manager insisted a new, improved public safety center to house police, fire and other departments is vital.

"These really are critically needed facilities today," City Manager Russell Allen said.

In the end, the council went with the plan as it's drawn up, but they did not vote on paying for the project or actually building it. That decision comes next year.

"We need to make a call in May or June, depending on the economy whether we can go ahead and the answer may be, no we can't," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

So the council may in fact delay the project come this summer.

If they city does find that it makes financial sense come May or June to move forward, the plan would be to demolish the old headquarters late next year with construction starting in 2010.

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