Nothing about moving forward with the city’s proposed Public Safety Campus feels right to me. This opinion is based on the fact, that after doing some research, it appears there are no answers in the public record to major questions about the project.
For starters, we do not know how much it is going to cost? Estimates range from $53 – $100 million. That is a wide range.
Maybe that wide range is because we do not know what will be housed on the Public Safety Campus?
Yes, home to police officers. But city staff has indicated it will house various neighborhood services and include community meeting spaces, an art center, and recreational activities, like basketball.
Also, we do not know how it will be paid for? I could not find any reporting on where the money will come from. Will taxes have to be increased? Will other priorities pay a price?
In a lot of communities a project with this kind of financial impact is approved by a voter referendum. For example, in 2018 at least three communities in Florida had voter referendums addressing the financing of public safety projects.
Why not here?
Now, one thing we do know about this mysterious project is where it will be located. But even this is a problem.
Does anyone remember publicly noticed community meetings or any serious debate about the proper location?
I didn’t think so. That’s because there were none.
So how was the location selected?
Back in February 2018, city staff reported that as “part of the City Commission’s 2018 public safety priority, staff was asked to explore potential construction alternatives for future public safety campus on the south side of town…. The desired area for the location of the public safety campus is, generally, identified as the South Monroe Street and Orange Avenue corridors.”
Next staff recommended “the initiation of an RFP for the acquisition of real estate for a public safety campus along the South Monroe Street and/or Orange Avenue corridors.”
There you have it – South Monroe Street and Orange Avenue.
There was no mention of input from community meetings or any consideration to locations not in the “target area.”
This process was ill-conceived at best, and incompetent at worst. And now that there are a fresh set of city commissioners taking a look, this process is being questioned.
And rightfully so.
Why didn’t the city commission evaluate more than one location and then present this information to the community for feedback?
This was the process followed when addressing the parking issue in midtown. City staff sought bids for different locations and then held community meetings ahead of a vote.
Why not use this approach for the Public Safety Campus?
There is no way the two meetings scheduled for this coming Monday and Tuesday will provide answers to all of the unknowns about the the Public Safety Campus.
The most these meetings will do is reveal how little is known. Hopefully, this revelation will convince at least three commissioners we need a redo.