Mayor breaks tie to move forward with planning process for new police station and renovation of City Hall
Citing concerns regarding staffing needs in the police department and the proposed location of the new police department building, three aldermen voted against a resolution to enter into an agreement with Hoefer Welker LLC for architectural services to plan and design a new police station and renovation of City Hall. Mayor Johnston broke the tie and the motion passed. The budgeted cost for 2021 is $70,000, with a bond issue planned to go before voters in 2022.
Alderman Stratton expressed her concern regarding plans to increase staffing for the department as well as concerns regarding the placement of the proposed new police department building.
“It is part of my decision making and if I’m ok moving forward with something like this knowing if we are or we aren’t looking to add to the department...over the course of three years, if we can spend $720,000 for the design of this building, what are we willing to spend to add to our police force,” Stratton said.
City Administrator Ken Murphy explained the limitations of bond funding, and that the design and construction of facilities and staffing needs of the department are two separately funded issues.
Alderman Bass echoed Stratton’s concerns, stating he supported additional staffing for the police department, with Alderman Knox once again noting that the funding of facilities through bond issues and the funding of salaries for officers are two separate issues.
Aldermen Bass, Cleaver, and Stratton voted against the resolution. Mayor Johnston broke the tie, voting in favor of the resolution.
The plan to be developed includes design concepts for a new approximately 14,000 square foot police station to be placed on land behind the current Community Center, and redesign of the current City Hall building.
Current police staffing levels and concerns regarding an increase in thefts in the City were a consistent theme throughout the meeting, with resident Jan Brill raising the issue during the citizen participation portion of the meeting, and Johnston addressing social media chatter during his comment period.
Brill questioned whether staffing levels at the police department should be increased in proportion to the increase in population shown in the recent census results. Johnston stated he felt the staffing levels at the department were adequate to serve the needs of the community at this time.
During Mayor and Board comments, Johnston pointed to statistics regarding the City’s crime rate and number of calls made to the department over the past few years as proof that social media debates about an increase in crime and concerns regarding staffing levels are unfounded.
Johnson stated the City has “the lowest crime rate of any of the regional cities”, and stated that in 2019 the department received. 4,284 calls, 3,935 in 2020,. and 2,826 so far in 2021.
“There isn’t the crisis that is being put forward on Facebook,” Johnston said.
In other business, the Board approved the final development plan and final plat approval for Creekside Villas and a development incentives agreement for the Mercado commercial development.
The next meeting of the Board of Aldermen will be held Monday, October 11th at 7:00pm at City Hall.