A Resolution Committing $7 million for an
Undefined Police Station
Requested by Councilmembers Sharpe, Glickert and Jennings
Last Wednesday, I received a notice that the Council will be holding a Study Session on “Discussion of Resolution 2015-17 on upcoming meeting agenda.” The notice and attached material did not shed any light on what Resolution 2015-17 covered. In order to understand what we were going to discuss, I asked the City Clerk to provide that information and she sent Resolution 2015-17 and the background information later that day. This resolution commits a large amount of money from our Reserve Funds to various projects. Council has previously committed the funding for many of these items. Are we committing additional amounts or reiterating existing resolutions? It is unnecessary to recommit something that has been previously committed, because that commitment does not expire unless Council passes a resolution to overturn a previous resolution. There are two items on this list that have NOT been previously committed: $90,000 for a fire escape on City Hall, and the single largest amount, $7 million for a police station. The last item has come to the Council three times since June 8th. On June 8, 2015 city Council voted 6:1 to amend the budget by removing the $7 million earmark for a police station from the budget. These funds were moved back to the unassigned Reserves until Council and the administration had the opportunity to discuss this and elicit public engagement on this issue (see June 8, 2015 Minutes City Council Meeting -p.3-4). To date there has been no presentation to or discussion of the police station with Council, and certainly no public engagement. And yet, Monday evening we are going to discuss the commitment of money for a facility about which we know almost nothing, for perhaps one hour in a Study Session forum, where citizens are not allowed to participate, and then go into a meeting and take a vote on committing $7 million for an undefined police facility.
This was exactly the way this Council brought forth the Bond Issues for Streets and Parks, which the citizens so resoundingly rejected. Have the majority of Council forgotten that lesson so quickly? Public engagement requires that the public knows what we are talking about, and we have yet to define that, since we don’t even know what we want to build or where we want to build it. There is no emergency and no rush to commit funding to build something for which we have no concrete plans.
We are not turning our backs on our Police Department. We have already shown purpose and commitment to them when we provided the $250,000 for the on-going study by Chiodini Architects. That completed report has not yet been presented to Council or the public, and there have been no opportunities for public input. Instead, we are provided with four-year old estimates from a different architectural firm, which are probably not accurate. In the words of the firm providing these older bids:
“The bids for the rehab are cost estimates only that were formulated by Archimages engineers who are currently
manangeing the new firehouse constructruction. the estimates are based on knowledge derived from an inspection of
the current facility as well as information derived from the FEMA and in-house inspector’s report concerning the
condition of the existing firehouse.”
Why are we looking at these 4-year old estimates instead of waiting for the results from our on-going $250,000 study?
Why has this been brought back without Council having the opportunity to discuss what we might want and how to best finance that, while actively engaging the public? It is beyond understanding that we should be taking a vote Monday night to commit $7 million of your tax dollars to a project for which almost no information has been provided and which you have not been asked about. What is the rush? We don’t even know if it is more appropriate to finance this building with a bond issue. Is this an attempt to tie up the Reserve funds so they will not be available to fix our streets and sidewalks? Combined with the Council’s refusal to provide any additional street or sidewalk work in the FY2016 budget and capital improvement plans for several years, it appears as if this Council could bring forward another bond issue to pay for street and sidewalk work. At least one Councilmember has publicly stated that.
With no public input there should be no commitment of your tax money. Please let members of the Council know that you want to be included in the conversation. I hope that you will make the time to attend the meeting Monday night. It may be the only time you will have an opportunity to make you voice heard.