Safety Center, again

Before the Council asks you to pay for a new Safety Center, it seems only fair to let you know what you’ll be buying.  Trouble is, I don’t know.

Here are the options that have been discussed or mentioned:

Option 1: the Safety Center Task Force recommendation of June 22 is to build a new Safety Center of 47,500 square feet housing both the police and fire departments.  The Task Force further recommended two sites, both south of the current Safety Center along Highway 3 and “strongly encourage[d]” the Council to study the flood protection needed for the current site (presented to the Council @ the 8/31 work session) and “explore ideas” for reuse.

Option 2: the Minority Opinion from Task Force member Ray Cox (and a discussion over on Locally Grown about this)    Ignoring the problematic way in which Mr Cox chose to get his opinion inserted into the discussion, he recommended either reusing the current safety center for police only and building anew fire station (if financial and engineering data bear out his belief that this would be the lowest cost option) or

Option 2a: also from the Minority Report if the engineering and financial data don’t support number 2, to build separate police and fire stations on a new site.  Separating the two facilities would allow the city to better account for the fire costs for the rural fire association and allow each facility to expand to meet its own needs independently.  The City has been urged to consider minority opinion by both the Chamber of Commerce and NDDC.

Option 3: Leave the fire station at the current location and build a new police station.  The current site is centrally located which is more important for fire response time.  I’ve only heard rumors about this one.

Mayor Rossing asked at our last work session what other information we needed to be able to include the project in the CIP.  I need to know what project we are committing to build – which means the Council must pass a resolution indicating our choice. In order to get to that decision, I need to see cost comparisons and I need to know where proposed numbers come from.  There are quite a lot of numbers to think about (in no particular order):

  • Land costs are not included in price estimates – what are estimated land costs?
  • What standard was used for space recommendations?  I don’t need minutiae, I just want to know the source of the space and cost per square foot numbers and they are not pulled from the air.  Call me an information paranoid – I check footnotes and read cross-references because I fear someone may be trying to mislead me at any moment (or, another way, from the Moscow Rules: Assume nothing).
  • What costs can be anticipated for reuse of the existing site for a purpose other than public safety?
  • What other possible funding sources are there?  We’ve noted contributions from the rural fire association and the college – what kind of $$’s are we talking about?  Does our choice of location/combination have any bearing on these?  I’ve heard there are possible state sources…really?  I don’t generally support chasing grants unless there’s it’s for one of those ” shovel-ready” projects (which this one isn’t, yet)  – any possibilities here?

10 Replies to “Safety Center, again”

  1. Betsey: Why was Ray Cox’s opinion troubling? If he hadn’t taken the time to raise his opinion, we wouldn’t have had the thoughts of an excellent legislator, and construction expert, and the City Council might be lulled into buying much more than we need or can afford.

    1. David, to reply to both your comments:

      1. Mr Cox’s “minority opinion” was troubling only in the way in which he chose to present it. The issues raised are both helpful for our decision-making on the Safety Center and for how the Council can improve how future task forces operate.

      2. Much of the information is already available, but simply needs to be called out of the hundreds of pages of paper on the Safety Center. City staff are working to put together a comparison of 4-5 scenarios which, I hope, will allow the Council to be able to determine the scope of the project.

  2. Betsey,

    I was wondering what you saw was inappropriate about Ray’s presentation as I am facing a nearly identical problem on the Streetscape Committee. I believe that the money is being spent quite unwisely. However, there seems to be no good method for minority opinions to be addressed.

    David

  3. “There seems to be no good method for minority opinions to be addressed”
    David’s quote above is one which I definitely agree with, although I often disagree with David on the details, as he knows.

    Is it important that the first time I typed in his quote I wrote ‘expressed’ rather than addressed?

    On Ray’s minority report on the safety center, I don’t know where or when would have been a better time for him to bring that to the council’s attention… can you help me with that, Betsey?

    Obviously, both David and Ray ‘expressed’ their opinions at their separate task force meetings; if they felt a responsibility (which clearly they both did) to a different solution than that offered by the majority of the participants, what is then their responsibility to carry their ideas further?

    What’s the ‘tipping’/balance point?

  4. Betsey, I too would appreciate knowing what was problematic about my presentation of a minority report. Some background…
    When I agreed to serve on the task force, I was not informed that it would operate by consensus. I assumed we would be taking votes on issues—my mistake for assuming that. I also did not know we would not elect a chairperson, nor that the city had not established a spending budget to address safety needs. Again, my mistake for not asking about these things before I agreed to serve on the task force.

    With all that in place, it was clear that there was no room in the task force committee for a voice that was promoting an alternate direction. I suppose I could have refused to concur with the task force and been a hold out forever….until the group disbanded. Instead I prepared what I believe was a thoughtful minority report and presented it to the city council at the same time the task force report was presented.

    In my mind a minority report is very similar to a disenting judicial opinion in an appellate court decision. It is important for judges to present disenting opinions. For me it was important for me to put forth my ideas to the taxpayers of the city.

    1. Ray, Because the Task Force report was presented as a consensus without any mention of dissent before it was presented and then, after the Task Force made itspresentation, you whipped out your own opinion. My initial impression was that you were attempting to do an end run around the Task Force or even trying to discredit the recommendation just presented. If the Task Force report was presented as a majority opinion, then a dissent would have made sense. In other words, the way you chose to present your opinion just seemed very sneaky.

      I don’t hold you responsible for all this, Ray. Obviously, the Task Force model or the Council’s charge to the Task Force were not sufficient and you chose one way to get more information on the table.

      Now that your view has been championed by the Chamber and NDDC and several other options have also been thrown into the mix, the result is that the Council has no clear recommendation to guide it and we have been forced to revisit and rediscuss what the Task Force did.

  5. Thanks for the comments and explanation Betsey. As I noted in my posting, there was no ‘room’ for any kind of minority voice with the task force—without me simply holding my breath forever and stalling the process completely.

    I don’t know if you feel it would have been more appropriate for me to present my report first, instead of after the task force report. I personally don’t think that would have been the thing to do—so I gave the task force the time to present their report, then simply offered my report for consideration. I have never said anything about discrediting the work the task force did. Quite the contrary, by serving on the task force I was able to learn a lot about the safety center issues. I just happened to arrive at a different conclusion after digesting the same information.

    Perhaps there will be another task force assembled to look into the issue again. If so, I would highly recommend that they not operate under consensus and that the city council give a defined budget range for them to work with.

  6. Betsey: I think that it is great that Ray has given the Council another option to consider. Granted, the Council has no clear recommendation to guide it. But, I would hope that the Council would take the time to seriously consider the merits of the proposal rather seeing it as an obstacle (like the Council did with the City Attorney issue).

    All indications are that the City is intent on pushing through a big, new facility. I haven’t heard any discussion of the fire department moving out and leaving the police there. In fact, it appears as is the City is still moving full full speed ahead with the Task Force’s majority opinion.

    Am I wrong in so thinking?

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