ABC11 Investigates

Raleigh officials consider site for new 911 center

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The City of Raleigh is taking a whole new approach in its move to build a new public safety center.

The initial plan, the $200 million Lightner Center, was scrapped two years ago after the I-Team first exposed the extravagant costs.

The new plan involves several phases. The most immediate need seems to be a 911 center. Right now, they're in really cramped quarters in the basement of City Hall.

So in this new plan, that's what they're starting with. But already, some are questioning the cost of how it's getting done.

The city is now looking at an empty, six acre lot for a new 911 center. It's just off Capital Boulevard, just north of the Beltline. And by all accounts, there's a critical need for it.

"Our 911 resources are really stretched as far as our needs and they're packed into every square inch available," said Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

Every city council member that ABC11 talked with agreed and when McFarlane called for the vote as to whether the city should spend $600,000 to study that site, it was unanimous.

But as the city council considered whether to build on the lot in question, some are wondering why, if this is the lot they want, why they would build at all.

"This whole building is empty," said Raleigh resident Barbara Zalewski .

Zalewski said the offices next door to the lot in question have been empty for too long and she says a 911 center seems like a good fit.

"I can't see spending a lot of taxpayers money to develop this when you've got all of that," said Zalewski.

But the city is getting something for its money -- three assessments: environmental, threat, and infrastructure. And, at least, an initial building design. Council member John Odom said there are reasons to build.

"Because you can get exactly what you want," said Odom. "If you know the demographics of what you want, you can build it to suit. Whereas if you have, you have to make it fit within that square footage."

But as to whether that vacant building could work or could be a better deal...

"I haven't heard that question yet," said McFarlane. "But, I think that's one of the things we should ask."

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