In these difficult economic times, city Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim says, building a new police station makes more sense than building a new city recreation center at South Side Park.
Kim said Monday the $6.5 million already bonded by the City Council for the recreation center could be used, instead, for the public safety building. Mayor Scott Johnson, who supports the recreation center project, said using some or all of the money earmarked for the recreation center project for a public safety facility would not be responsible.
Johnson said Kim voted to borrow the $6.5 million for the recreation center as part of the 2008 city budget.
“Now he’s back pedaling,” Johnson said. City officials have discussed breaking ground for the new recreation center as early as this fall.
Kim said he wants the public to become more involved in what he feels is a dire need for a new police station. He will hold a news conference this morning near the Lake Avenue entrance to the city police department to start a public information campaign.
The issue is also on tonight’s City Council agenda. The council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Hall at Broadway and Lake Avenue.
The current police headquarters in the basement of City Hall has been inadequate for many years and is considered unsafe for employees and members of the public, Kim said.
“There is a community consensus that a new police station is needed,” Kim said.
“Do the police station first,” he said. “What I am saying is that tough economic times mean tough choices.”
He said that $8 million in proposed borrowing for the police station project, which is part of the 2008 city budget, was the only city bonding project not approved by the new, Republican-controlled City Council early this year.
Kim, a Democrat, said Mayor Johnson and the other Republican members of the council supported a new public safety facility when they campaigned for office last fall.
“They have walked away from it,” Kim said.
The police facility, which is currently in the design stage, would be located off High Rock Avenue behind City Hall in what is currently a city parking lot.
Johnson said Monday that to continue to spend money to design the new police facility without full council support is irresponsible.
“Everybody is interested in recreation,” Johnson said about what he feels is a much-needed indoor recreation center at the South Side Park.
Johnson said anybody can make a case for a new police station but the proposal needs to be “creative and affordable.”
“He’s way over budget,” Johnson said about Kim’s plans for the new police facility.
The City Council included $8 million in the 2008 budget for the project, while Johnson said Kim’s cheapest plan is at about $11 million.
Kim said Monday that the latest estimate for the public safety facility is $9.7 million for an “essentials” building.
Johnson said he is studying the police station issue and will eventually release a proposal of his own. He was not on the City Council when planning for the station started in 2007.
“Johnson wants to design it himself,” Kim said.
The public safety commissioner said that for every month of delay on the police station project, more money will be required to build the facility.
“If we go back to square one it will cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” Kim said.
Kim maintains that because the $8 million in bonding for the police station project is included in the 2008 city budget, the project would not increase taxes. The borrowing and the payments on the bonding are already in the budget.
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