Plan could nix proposed public safety center

RALEIGH The 17-story, $205 million Lightner Center would be among Raleigh's crown jewels - housing police, fire, and the city's emergency communications center.

But it would mean a property tax increase of 8 percent over five years.

Slowly, city councilors once supportive of the project have begun to look for other ways to get those first responders more space, which everyone agrees they need.

So on Tuesday, a completely different plan was put forward by members of Raleigh's city council.

Three councilors, Bonner Gaylord, Russ Stephenson and Thomas Crowder have submitted their proposal that would scrap the existing plans entirely. It would focus on renovating instead of building and it wouldn't raise taxes.

"The world has been turned upside down the last few years and we need to continually reanalyze the plans that we're charting to determine if there may be a better way," Raleigh City Council Bonner Gaylord said.

"We have to find a more efficient way to provide the more important services without having to resort to tax increases or painful service cuts," Raleigh City Councilman Russ Stephenson said.

Their proposal would leave fire headquarters where they are on Martin Street, renovate police headquarters on McDowell Street and move the emergency operations - or 911 center - somewhere off-site.

The proposal is short on details, but filling those in will be up to City Manager Russell Allen.

On Tuesday, Allen pointed out that if the Lightner Center is ultimately built, any delay in construction could make it more expensive, because of increased interest rates.

But critics say the Lightner Center would cost too much anyway and say a new plan a needed.

"We wouldn't be exhibiting good leadership if we didn't look at a new scenario with a new lens," Gaylord said.

Some supporters of the Lightner Center say one of the most important things it would do is centralize emergency services and that is one thing the new proposal would not do.

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