Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker revealed Tuesday how he hopes to win over council members Thomas Crowder or Russ Stephenson and have one of the two break a deadlocked vote on the council over the controversial Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center.
The project, which would be named after the first and only black mayor Raleigh has had, had a major setback this week when council member John Odom announced he wouldn't vote for the project as designed. He'd like the council to start over, not seeing any likely compromises in sight.
Meeker said city staff is exploring whether the 911 dispatchers in the city's emergency communications department could rent space Raleigh in the AT&T building on the northeast corner of Hargett and McDowell streets. That windowless building is AT&T's central office and a network switching center that serves as a hub for telecom services in downtown and eastern Raleigh.
His hope is that would a reassurance to Crowder and Stephenson, who have been concerned about housing the dispatchers in an upper floor of the 17-story glass tower because of security reasons. Then, the Lightner Center would be redesigned without the two floors of the space that was dedicated to the dispatchers, Meeker said.
Also this week, Wake County's Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope Jr. called for the project to go before voters in a bond referendum, and not be decided by the city's eight-person council.
"If Mayor Meeker and the Council can’t convince the voters this project is in the public interest, then it probably isn’t in the public interest,” Pope said in a written statement.
If the city was able to get permission to move its 911 dispatchers to the AT&T building, it may still not be enough to save the project.
As designed, the city would spend an estimated $205 million on it, including the $23 million the city has already spent in design expenses and the cost of buying and retrofitting two other buildings to relocate police to during the planned construction.