Council hesitant over the Lightner center

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Raleigh City Council Tuesday got an in-depth analysis of the proposed Clarence E. Lightner public safety center, but did not make a final decision on whether to risk moving forward during an economic recession.

Thomas Crowder (District D) started the conversation by asking for a cost-benefit analysis of the facilities.

“What I want to know… what the payback is in 20 years, 50 years, 100 years,” Crowder asked.

Scott Cutler, Clancy and Theys Construction Company vice president, said $141 million will cover only the building, and does not include furnishings and the technology required. The entire cost is projected at $205 million.

Cutler said between 1,800 and 3,900 jobs would be created by the construction, factoring in contractors and builders, as well as indirect employment from services such as coffee and food.

Mayor Charles Meeker asked, “How many of these jobs would be from the local area?”

“We would anticipate most of those,” Cutler said.

Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan spoke to council about the needs of his department, which will be centrally located in the building along with the fire department.

“What we need most in safe and secure space. What we need and want is a state-of-the-art telecommunications center,” Dolan said. He also said the new facilities would be a morale boost, and increase efficiency and productivity.

Currently the RPD is housed in a small building on Hargett Street, where safety is a concern, Dolan, Meeker and Mary Ann Baldwin (At-Large) noted at the meeting.

Councilors discussed the necessity of a large auditorium in the building, which would be used for graduations, trainings and ceremonies for both departments. Fire Chief John McGrath said that presently the RFD has to “scramble to find a place” to hold these events.

“Do we need a new public safety center? Yes. Is this the right facility? We need to focus on that question,” said Meeker.

“And the last question,” Crowder added, “is how you pay for it and what’s its cost?”

Councilors previously discussed paying for the facility by increasing taxes.