Council delays vote on Lightner building

RALEIGH The council's decision comes as it debates whether to pay for the new 17-story tower with a tax hike.

Many have said they wonder if the new proposal for the new Lightner Public Safety Center in downtown Raleigh is a vital public safety need?

"Do we need a new public safety center," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "I think everyone is going to have to answer yes."

And Raleigh's police chief says the force of 800 officers could double in 20 years, but some question designs which builders say has the future in mind.

"It wouldn't require a dedicated sort of stadium seating gallery area," Raleigh City Councilmember Russ Stephenson said.

Rather than rubber stamp the $205 million project Tuesday, which could raise average property taxes by $60 a year, Raleigh's city council peppered architects, builders, even the police chief with questions about cost, size and video screens.

"So a cost analysis was done between a two-story wall with a JumboTron and just adding an additional monitor," Raleigh City Councilmember Bonner Gaylord said.

Raleigh's 911 centers has been operating for 25 years in the city hall basement, which officials say is too small to stay current with Raleigh's growth and fast response times.

Mayor Meeker said the recession presents a building bargain.

"Is this a good time to build it," Meeker said. "Well there can't be a better time to build it in terms of construction costs and interest costs."

However, others questioned not just the timing or design, but the need to demolish one building to build another.

"Is there another location that we could build this building that would preserve this structure that is in place now and save 43,000 square feet," Gaylord said.

Raleigh's city council will meet in two weeks to discuss the Lightner Public Safety Center again.

Mayor Meeker says the city can save $15 million if the council votes soon.

Designers planned to start construction this spring.

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