Council moves forward on new facilities

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CORRECTION APPENDED: John Odom did not vote against the amphitheater, Thomas Crowder did.

The Raleigh City Council approved moving forward on three major projects in their capital improvement plan.

Councilors voted today to approve $2.4 million to finish plans for the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center. They also approved the construction of an outdoor amphitheater next to Raleigh’s convention center and gave the go-ahead to fund the new Solid Waste Services facilities with Certificates of Participation.

Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center

The Lightner Center will house the city’s police and fire departments. The city council will look at the project again in January for final approval.

The new justice center is planned for the corner of Hargett and McDowell streets, where the current police station sits.

“This is the lowest interest-environment for municipal debt in the last 20 years,” said City Manager Russell Allen. He favored councilors locking in on the $205 million construction tab while the market is down.

“If we get going relatively soon, we know what we’re going to get,” said Mayor Charles Meeker.

Russ Stephenson (At-large) expressed concern about the amount of public financing that will go into the building, noting the possible negative “impact on peoples lives.”

“These projects are important to the long term, but we are all keenly aware of the economic recession,” he said.

According to Allen, the project would cost the average household $20 a year.

Bonner Gaylord (District E) and John Odom (District B) opposed the approval. Gaylord expressed concern about the current plans, saying some facilities are unnecessary, “such as corner offices that have their own bathrooms and their own showers.”

Allen said that the plans were not final, and proposed a date in mid-December to acquaint the new councilors with the history of the project. He also said the private showers had been taken out of the plans.

Convention Center amphitheater

Raleigh City Council approved a $1.6 million budget to build an outdoor “boutique amphitheater” to host marquee concerts, cultural festivals and art expos. The plan also pairs Raleigh with the Live Nation group to book big-name acts.

The amphitheater, facing the convention center’s shimmer wall, is projected to bring in almost $500,000 and 225,000 people annually. It will be fully equipped with video and audio capabilities, and a study showed proper acoustic capabilities of the space.

“This begins to put Raleigh on the map as a music venue,” said Allen

Stephenson had a few concerns, including the control of noise pollution and Raleigh’s relationships with other nearby city venue’s (i.e. Cary’s Koka Booth amphitheater.)

District C’s James West was concerned about other, closer, competition: “is there any synergy between here and Walnut Creek?”

The city will be required to apply for the proper permits, and if the noise at the venue exceeds set levels, it could be subject to fines or possibly losing the special-use permit.

Only Thomas Crowder (District D) voted against the construction.

Wilders Grove Solid Waste Services center

Councilors also approved funding for the Wilders Grove Solid Waste Services site, which will expand solid-waste facilities.

The financing of the Wilders Grove will be through Certificates of Participation, which allows investors to buy into lease revenue rather than through government-backed bonds.

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