Council still cool on Lightner Center

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The Raleigh City Council had the Lightner Public Safety Center back on the agenda after voting 4-4 less than a month ago to reject the project. The city manager brought the idea back up with a new proposal that did not include a tax increase for the $200-million building.

The council was still cool on the idea and Mayor Charles Meeker said during the meeting that he knew he still didn’t have the votes to approve the project. Council did vote to separate several Solid Waste Services capital projects from the Lightner debate and apply for $44 million in low-interest bonds from North Carolina’s share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

City Manager Russell Allen said, “The Lightner Center gets the discussion, but these remote ops centers are important.”

The council had to act quickly to apply for funding for the Solid Waste Services’ remote operations centers because the application is due this week. Councilors did not seem happy that they had to act so quickly, but District E’s Bonner Gaylord made sure that approving the application did not necessarily mean that they would have to take the loans.

Council also decided to enlarge the so-called recovery zone, which makes areas qualify for the stimulus loans, to cover the entire city.

New Lightner task force

As the council decided to separate out the remote operations projects from the Lightner Center, Meeker proposed a new task force made up of council members to look at the issues involved in building a new public safety center to house the city’s fire, police and emergency communications departments.

Meeker will be joined on the task force by Mary-Anne Baldwin, Russ Stephenson and Bonner Gaylord. The task force will come up with a list of questions and find a consultant to look at the issues.

Meeker said he will set a date for the new task force to have its first meeting next week.

New pine straw rules

The Raleigh Fire Department wants new rules to limit the use of pine straw as a ground cover near businesses and rental and multi-family homes. The proposal says that pine straw should not be within 10 feet of structures made from flammable materials such as vinyl siding or wood.

Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Styons told councilors Tuesday that the rules would not apply to single family homes because of what he called “property rights issues.”

Styons said that building codes should be changed to deal with pine straw, but that can be a long process. Having council pass an ordinance would be the faster solution.

Council voted to send the new rule to the Law and Public Safety committee for review.

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