$1M price tag for Capital Blvd art doesn't sit well with some, including Raleigh firefighters

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- The City of Raleigh is set to pay nearly $1 million for artwork on two Capital Boulevard bridges, leaving some firefighters and taxpayers upset.

The entire project is going to cost more than $36 million revitalizing nearly one mile of Capital Boulevard and two bridges.

It's an NCDOT project needed to deal with Raleigh growth - but the City of Raleigh told ABC11 that it is paying $15.8 million of that for "betterments" such as a greenway and nearly $1 million of that is for public art and enhancements to the bridges.

The art will cost the city $40,000 for the design and more than $870,000 to build.

It is money Shawn Burns and others think could be used elsewhere. He's the president of the Raleigh Professional Firefighters Association and said he'd like to see some of those dollars go toward reaching the national average when it comes to firefighter pay.

"Don't have a problem with the city investing money in those types of things as long as the city employees are being taken care of," Burns said. "So we kind of look at the art as it's a way to make a city that is great, look great, but first a city has to be great."

The city has a Percent for Art program where 1 percent of all city-funded construction projects must go to public art, but the art for the bridges comes from the transportation budget, funded by transportation bond referendums, according to the city transportation and planning manager, Eric Lamb.

"Raleigh continuously comes, every budget cycle, it says it doesn't have money for affordable housing, for police and firefighter raises, for other basic necessities, they're forced to raise taxes - and I think Raleigh's leadership needs to be honest with its citizens," Joey Stansbury, a blogger for Wake Watch said, "and tell them it's expenditures such as this that are driving tax increases."

The design for the entire revitalization was presented to the Raleigh City Council in 2015 and voted on in 2016.

Public information officer, John Boyette provided ABC11 with the following statement from the city:

"The City of Raleigh welcomes public input during the budgeting process. Anyone who has suggestions is welcome to submit comments during the City Council's budget review process which generally begins in mid-May. The Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget before it is finally adopted.

"Last spring, the City addressed salary disparities by providing significant pay raises for City employees, including Police and Fire, for the current fiscal year. Total spending for these pay increases is $18.1 million, with $10.7 million going toward pay raises for public safety employees."
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