Council to hire consultant to study public safety needs

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Members of the task force studying the new public safety center proposal met for the first time today. They decided to hire a private firm to study Raleigh’s public safety facilities needs, which could cost up to $150,000, according to one task force member.

The panel, comprised of four council members, decided not to ask the American Institute of Architects or the Urban Land Institute to do the study.

At-large councilor and task force member Mary-Ann Baldwin said she did not think the city should spend what she estimated to be between $80,000 and $150,000 to have a private firm do the study.

But Russ Stephenson (at-large) and Bonner Gaylord (District E), who spearheaded the effort to do away with the plans for the $205,000 public safety center, argued that the two groups would not be able to give the council an objective opinion.

Stephenson said his objection to using the American Institute of Architects or a similar organization is that some members have already come out either for or against the proposal. Stephenson himself is a member of the AIA.

Gaylord said using one of the groups would give “the appearance of impartiality.”

Meeker countered Stephenson and Gaylord’s objections. He said the AIA has members all across the country, and “I don’t know why we would exclude the 99 percent who know nothing about this.”

In the end, Meeker conceded and the task force opted to go with the more expensive option.

The Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center proposal would have put a 17-story tower to house the police, fire and emergency communications departments at the site of the now-empty police headquarters downtown. The police department recently finished moving out of the building at the corner of Hargett and McDowell streets, which began when the department still thought the tower would go ahead.

The task force will meet again in two weeks to pick an independent third party to revue the proposals from outside firms that want to do the study. They will also develop the final language for what they will ask the consultant to look at.

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